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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2009 Cass Winery Rockin' One Blanc***
09CassRockinWhite.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $32 @ the Winery 1/22/11
A blend of 60% Roussanne and 40% Marsanne.
A medium, lemon-gold colored wine with a bright nose of lemon creme, minerals, honey, apple and peach. The palate is medium-bodied, with a lush mouthfeel that is balanced by medium acidity that lifts the lengthy finish, countering the ripe fruitiness and keeping it refreshing despite its 15.8% abv. Though barrel-fermented and aged (for 10 months on the lees), there's no trace of oak in this wine just a smooth roundness that allows the fruit (apple, lime, lemon, peach) to shine. Additional notes of honey, minerals and sweet spice add depth. An elegant and intense wine that kept me heading to the glass for more. Though Roussanne is a wine that can age, because of the high abv, I wouldn't hold onto this bottle for more than a year.

2009 Central Coast Wine Warehouse "Emergence"*
09Emergence.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $7 Trader Joe's 10/20/10
A blend of 33% Grenache Blanc, 29% Marsanne, 25% Viognier & 13% Roussanne
Love Rhone whites so picked this up on a whim from TJs. Paso is producing some stellar wines from these grape varities so I figured I couldn't really lose for the price. This is a pale, lemon-colored wine with medium aromatics of green apple, citrus, melon, peach and minerals. The palate is creamy with bright acidity and flavors that reflect the nose with additional notes of pear, chalk and banana on the medium finish. There's nothing particularly wrong with this wine, it's just too one-dimensional with a touch of heat (14.5% abv) as it warms up to really give it two stars. Only got a hint of the Viognier on the nose or palate, which if used more might have added a bit more depth to the wine. It had more elegance than many whites in this price range and did taste like a Rhone white, so it's a nice entry wine for those curious about this type of blend.

2009 Sans Liege Cotes-du-Coast***
sansliegecotesducoast.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $24 @ the Winery 8/2/10
A blend of 43% Viognier, 39% Roussanne and 18% Marsanne.
A medium, gold-colored wine with a vibrant nose of citrus and stone fruit, orange blossom, honey and almond that got more entrancing as the wine warmed. The palate was medium-bodied, intense, round and creamy with medium acidity and a lingering finish. The flavors reflected the nose with additional notes of tangerine, mango, biscuit and nutmeg. The grapes were sourced from the Alta Colina and Derby Vineyards in Paso Robles. The wine underwent malolactic fermentation and spent 16 months in barrel, 50% second fill oak, 50% neutral oak; all French. There's nothing shy about this wine and despite it's 15.4% abv it had lovely balance and structure. We drank it with lobster pasta which brought out the purity of the fruit even more. Lush and complex this is what Central Coast Rhone whites are all about...at least for me. Very Good QPR. This wine is in its prime, but could go another year or two. Open and enjoy.

2008 Alta Colina Winery Claudia Cuvee**
08AltaColinaCC.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $28 @ Winery 11/27/11
A blend of 58% Marsanne, 21% Grenache Blanc and 21% Roussanne.
A pale, clear, straw-colored wine with an aromatic nose of green apple, citrus, minerals and a hint of almonds. The palate is medium-bodied and creamy with medium acidity and flavors of lemon creme, melon, apple and honey along with notes of biscuit on the lingering finish. The wine was aged in 60% neutral French Oak and 40% stainless steel, which gives it a lush mouthfeel without feeling too heavy. A lovely blend that I wish had just a bit more depth of flavor to push it to the next level. Would drink within the next 6 months in order to really enjoy the lovely fruit. A well-crafted wine that delivers very good QPR from an up-and-coming winery that you need to watch out for, especially if you love Rhone wines. (14% abv)

2008 Barrel 27 "High on the Hog" Rhone Blend***
barrel27highhog.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $15 @ Winery 11/25/09
A blend of 39% Grenache Blanc, 36% Viognier, 20% Roussanne, 5% Marsanne with all the fruit coming from the Paso Robles appellation. A medium, straw/gold colored wine with an aromatic nose filled with flowers, stone fruit, honey, citrus and mineral notes. The mouthfeel is medium-bodied and ripe with flavors of candied lemon, melon, peach, sweet apple and notes of sweet spice and slate on the lush finish. Despite all the ripeness, this version is quite well-balanced with just the right amount of acidity to keep it from being cloying. Would go really well with Thai or Chinese food. By keeping the alcohol in check (14.2%), this wine is more elegant than the previous vintages. One of my favorite Rhone blends from Paso and a steal at this price. If you like full-bodied, fruity wines, which I do. Popped and poured, the wine held up well over several days and stayed true even as it warmed. Need to get more.

2008 Beckmen Vineyards Le Bec Blanc**
BeckmenLe_Bec_Blanc_2008.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Santa Barbara, CA $18 @ the Winery 1/6/11
A blend of 45% Roussanne, 45% Marsanne and 10% Grenache Blanc.
A pale, lemon-gold colored wine with a moderate nose of green apple, lemon creme, apricot, minerals and a hint of ginger. The palate is medium-bodied and round with low acidity and a bit all over the place when cold. As it warms up the flavors of apple, pineapple, lemon creme, apricot and beeswax united with a hint of nuts and honey on the medium-length finish. This is a wine that was much better with food which tempered the richness and brought the fruit forward. The second day it really came together with a lusher mouthfeel and more cohesion of the flavors. Tastes much richer than its 13.9% abv due to 50% malolactic fermentation and 11 months in used French oak. I would give this another 6 months in the bottle to allow the flavors to truly coalesce. Very good quality for the price.

2008 Caliza Winery Kissin' Cousins***
08CalizaKissin.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $28 @ Winery 9/28/11
A blend of 47% Viognier, 30% Grenache Blanc and 23% Roussanne.
A clear, pale, lemon-colored wine with a bright nose of citrus blossom, green fruit, peach and honey with hints of slate and vanilla. Delivers something different every time you swirl. The palate is medium-bodied and creamy with moderate acidity, though it's not flabby. Elegant and food friendly the flavors match the nose with additional notes of pear and lanolin with hints of lemon creme and fennel on the lengthy finish. Since it's a few years old, the wine is less about the Viognier, showing more traditional notes of the Roussanne (honey/pear/vanilla). Would have sworn the percentages were reversed. Lush and intense, yet still controlled, not yet showing any breakdown or heat from it's 14.75% abv. One of the best white Rhone Blends from the region. It could go another year, but there's really no need to wait.

2008 Cass Winery Rockin' One Blanc***
09CassRockinWhite.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $32 @ the Winery 4/12/11
A blend of 80% Roussanne and 20% Marsanne.
A pale, lemon-straw colored wine with a moderate nose of lemon, chalk, pineapple and melon with hints of honey, apricot and almonds. The palate is medium-bodied, with refreshing acidity, good balance, intense fruit and a lingering finish. The flavors mirror the nose with additional notes of biscuit, ginger and vanilla. The wine is barrel-fermented and aged (for 10 months on the lees), giving the mouthfeel a nice lushness that balances the acidity. I was not a fan of this wine upon it's release a year ago. Being mostly Roussanne I guess it was in a muted state and just needed some time to come together, since it tastes comepletley different after a year in the bottle. Was going to give this bottle away, but now I wish I had another. Unlike the current 09 release, this one comes in at only 14.7% abv and definitely has some time to go in the bottle. Elegant, intense and fresh. Still alot to pay for a white wine, but this one is now worth it. Had it with Garlic Herb Chicken and Roasted Cauliflower with Couscous and Fennel. Was one of best pairings in a long time.

2008 Chateau de Campuget Tradition Blanc*
campugetblanc.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Costières de Nimes, France $13 The Green Spot 9/19/10
A blend of 60% Roussanne, 30% Grenache Blanc and 10% Marsanne.
A water-white, straw-colored wine with a mild nose of green apple, citrus fruit and minerals. The palate is light-bodied with bright acidity and a sort of oily texture with flavors of apple, lemon, wet stone and melon on the short finish. I really wanted/expected to like this wine, but, while drinkable, it just wasn't very interesting. Been trying to give French Rhone blends a fair shake, but this one won't convince many to jump on their bandwagon. Drink now, it won't be getting any better. (13%abv)

2008 Edward Sellers Blanc Du Rhone***
06edsellersBDR.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $29 @ The Winery 1/19/12
A blend of 47% Roussanne, 47% Marsanne and 6% Grenache Blanc.
A clear, pale, lemon-colored wine with a bright nose of citrus and stone fruits with hints of herbs, honey and flowers. The palate is medium-bodied and creamy with well-balanced acidity and is fruitier than the nose suggests. The flavors (lemon, lime, minerals and tangerine) are intense, yet come together to form a very elegant wine with a lingering finish full of pienapple, ginger and nutmeg. From the lush mouthfeel you would swear it has a lot of alcohol, but it comes in at 13.7% and shows no trace of heat. I was worried I waited too long to drink this, but it was bright and delicious all night long. It certainly is in its' prime, so if you still have a bottle open it before the lovely fruit is all gone. From vintage to vintage one of the best Paso wineries for Rhone whites. They aren't cheap, but in this case you get what you pay for.

2008 Edward Sellers Estate Blanc***
08EdEstateBlanc Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $29 @ The Winery 2/24/12
A blend of 56% Grenache Blanc, 28% Roussanne and 16% Marsanne.
A clear, pale, lemon-colored wine with a subtle nose of citrus blossom, lemon, peach and apple with hints of minerals and herbs. The palate was light-to-medium-bodied with bright, but well-balanced acidity and a medium length finish. Showed more upfront fruit than the nose, but is not a fruit-bomb by any means. Flavors reflected the nose with additional notes of mango, honey and anise. This wine kept my mouth watering for quite some time after each sip thanks to the inherent acidity of the Grenache Blanc, a grape poised to make a real splash in this region. It can sometimes be a bit too green and flat on it's own, so this blend delivers a lovely mix of fruit, body and pop. This is their first wine from all estate fruit and it's a beauty. Can't wait for future vintages. (14.1% abv)

2008 Halter Ranch Cotes de Paso Blanc**
08HalterRanchCDPBlanc.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Paso Robles, CA $24 @ the Winery 1/24/10
Blend of 64% Roussanne, 32% Marsanne, 4% Viognier
A pale, lemon-colored wine with bright aromas of lemon, stone and green fruit with notes of minerals and nutmeg, which was super strong when the wine was cold, but integrated more as it warmed. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied with round flavors of lemon, golden apple, melon and peach with notes of honey, nutmeg and vanilla on the creamy finish. Though very fruit-forward the wine is well-balanced with vibrant acidity, showing more depth and flavor as it opened up. Though interesting and well-crafted, I wanted to like this wine more than I did, especially for the price. Perhaps a bit more time in the bottle will help it to integrate more and thus push it to the 3-star level, though it's perfectly enjoyable now.

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