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90+ point rated wines under $20

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2008 Catena Zapata Alamos Torrontes**
alamostorrontes.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Salta, Argentina $10 Whole Foods 9/25/09
A pale, lemon-colored wine with an aromatic nose of citrus, stone fruit, honeysuckle and hints of roses. The palate is light-bodied with bright acidity and flavors of lemon creme, lime, flowers and notes of herbs and peach on the refreshing and lingering finish. Drier than it's nose suggests with great balance. Not as deep and exciting as the Crios, but classy and well-crafted showing exactly what Torrentes is all about. A lovely wine for the price that shows better as it opens. Would buy again.

2008 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes***
Criostorrontes.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Salta, Argentina $16 BevMo 1/23/08
A water-white, lemon colored wine with bright aromatics of key lime, grapefruit, orange blossom and hints of rose. The wine is light-bodied, yet ripe and intense with stone and citrus fruits along with hints of white pear and flowers on the lush, yet crisp palate. More like the 06 than the 07, this wine needs a bit more time to fully unify its flavors. Was better the second day as the lime and flowers were more integrated into the wine and the stone fruit flavors more prevalent. Still a lovely, complex wine with the acidity keeping the ripeness in balance. Even the Man really liked it, which is rare for a white wine. Will definitely be getting another bottle.

2008 Marques de Caceres Rioja Blanco*
marqueswhite.jpg Region Price Purchased Date
Rioja, Spain $6 Trader Joe's 4/27/09
100% Viura. Pale straw color with a bright bouquet filled with citrus, ripe green fruit and notes of blossom and minerals. The palate is light-bodied and more tartly acidic than the nose leads you to believe with flavors of lemon, apple and pear with hints of sweet spice and minerals on the crisp finish. A pretty interesting wine for $6, but this vintage is too tart to get the second star. I needed a bit more fruit in the middle to balance the acidity. It's definitely more flavorful than most white wines in this price point and was more mellow with food. Would definitely be refreshing on a hot summer day.

2007 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes**
Criostorrontes.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Salta, Argentina $15 Woodland Hills Wine 10/10/08
What a difference a vintage makes. I purchase this wine year after year because I love the crisp, floral fruitiness of the varietal as made by Crios. The 07 is no exception, but it lacks the focus of the 06. The nose is strong with rose petals and honeysuckle aromas with minor touches of citrus and stone fruits once the flowers fade. The palate is light and crisp with honeysuckle, peach and ripe melon flavors along with some citrus and honey on the finish. There is perhaps too much going on here and once the floral characteristics blow off the wine seemed bland and green with a slight soapy component. I would give it time to integrate and will try it again. If anything it was intensely interesting.

2007 Bodegas Fantelli Torrontés*
07fantellitorrontes.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Mendoza, Argentina $8 Cost Plus 9/19/09
A pale, yellow-colored wine with an aromatic nose of citrus, honeyscukle, stone fruit and hints of sweet spice that don't really carry over onto the palate, which is light-bodied and creamy, yet a bit all over the place. The flavors are fairly muted with some citrus and minerality, but nothing like you'd expect from the nose which was lovely. Really muted and generic for a torrontes. Showed better as it warmed with some lemon and floral notes along with some white pepper showing through. While not offensive and certainly drinkable, there's nothing to recommend this wine except it's price. Faired better with food, though not enough to get another star. Just clumsily crafted. There are many better examples of this varietal out there for just a few dollars more. This won't be getting any better so drink it if you've got it.

2007 Telmo Rodriguez Basa Blanco**
basa.jpg Region Price Tasted Date
Rueda, Spain $13 Private Event 5/6/08
A pale straw-colored wine with a bright nose filled with notes of grass, minerals, citrus, floral and pear. The palate is light-bodied with brisk acidity, nice viscousity and vibrant citrus and orchard fruit flavors accented by fresh herbs. Finishes crisp and clean with good length. A great value-priced wine that packs a lot of flavor for the price. A blend of Verdejo, Viura and Sauvignon Blanc.

Re-Tasted 6/12/09: This tasted all tart citrus and briny the first night without much complexity. Have rarely drunk a white wine that was better the second. This one was like night and day, much rounder and riper, more like my initial notes but with more integrated acidity and bigger fruit flavors. A wine with a lot of life left.

2007 Toreta Posip***
07ToretaPosip.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Island of Korcula, Croatia $18 K&L Wines 9/18/11
This hard to find grape was one of my favorite discoveries of 2011. It's grown only in Crotia, only on the island of Korcula, by a handful of producers. I initially tried it at a tasting at K&L and had to have a bottle. I was a bit worried when I opened it at home almost a yeat later. I thought I had waited to long. The bright aromatics of the nose was just as I remembered – all citrus blossom, green apple, herbs, minerals and stone fruit (sort of a cross between sauvignon blanc and viognier) – but the mouthfeel was too acidic and briny with mostly lemon and peach flavors. An elegant, well-crafted wine, but nothing special. Until day two, where it was twice as vibrant, showing greater depth of flavors and mouthfeel and a finish that just went on and on with notes of stone, honey and pear. Clearly a wine that needed a bit more time in the bottle. The flavors were familiar I had just never had them come together quite life this. Held it's own when at room temp as well. A grape I look forward to drinking more of...it I can ever find it again. (14.5% abv.)

2007 Zolo Torrontes**
zoloTorrontes.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Salta, Argentina $10 Cost Plus 2/4/09
A pale, lemon/green-colored wine with bright aromatics of lemon, tropical fruit, blossom and hints of herbs that all follow through on the light-bodied and crisp palate. An intensely flavored wine with a refreshing finish of apricot and a touch of minerality. Better when it was a bit warmer and held up to our spicy food. A nice wine for the price but nothing memorable. Shows what Torrontes is all about, though not the best one I've ever had. Ready to drink, but still vibrant enough to hold.

2006 Beckmen Vineyards Grenache Blanc**
Beckmen_LeBec.jpg Region Price Purchased Date
Santa Barbara, CA $24 @ the Winery 5/8/08
A wine usually used in Rhone wine blends and for a good reason. Beckmen manages to caress some good flavors and aromas from this workhorse grape - mostly citrus and green fruit on both the nose and the palate - it's just not that interesting. This version is well-made with good balance, acidity and a nicely viscous mouthfeel for such a light-bodied wine, but though enjoyable it doesn't make you want to rush back into the glass. A good version though nothing inspiring.

2006 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes***
Criostorrontes.jpg Region Price Purchased Drank
Salta, Argentina $15 BevMo 12/14/07
This is one of my favorite white wines and one that I purchase time and again. Torrontes is a grape only found in Argentina and they make some lovely wines with it. With aromas similar to Viognier, this wine is light-bodied with hints of peach pit, white pear, flowers, and orange citrus fruit on the nose and full of ripe tropical fruits on the lush, yet crisp palate. Though dry, the varietal is so fruity it lends an air of sweetness to the wine, which some people may not like. I'm not one of them. A great summer sipper that's flavorful and refreshing.

2006 Marques de Caceres Rioja Blanco**
marqueswhite.jpg Region Price Purchased Date
Rioja, Spain $6 Trader Joe's 4/1/08
Pale straw color with a fresh bouquet filled with green apples and ripe pears and a touch of floral minerality. This intensity on the nose comes through again in the mouth with full fruit flavors, crisp acidity and a creamy melon-filled finish. There's a lot going on in this little wine. It has the structure and flavor of one twice its' price and is consistently good from year to year. One of my "house" whites. Is a great aperitif or summer sipper.

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