Howard Hewitt: Best wines for under $25

Published 12:14 pm Friday, January 11, 2013

Grape Sense

Each year the lists of top events, products and moments dominate the media around New Year’s. Grape Sense has celebrated 10 top wines each year since 2007.
The list isn’t necessarily the 10 best wines tasted; it’s 10 of the best wines sampled at a value price point (less than $25) in the past 12 months.

In no particular order, here are 10 of the most enjoyable and easy-to-find value wines of 2012.

• Clayhouse Adobe White: The Clayhouse line of wines always delivers well above the $14 suggested retail price point. The white is 49 percent Viognier, 26 percent Sauv Blanc, 19 percent Grenache Blanc and 6 percent Princess. The wine has floral, identifiable orange, peach and honey flavors. It’s an awesome summer sipper.

• Costieres de Nimes Nostre Pais White: I love Grenache Blanc. Two wines make this year’s list featuring the grape. It is a smooth and light-on-the-palate wine with hints of lime. It gets big scores from critics.

• Gauthier Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir: Finding under $20 Pinot Noir is a bit of a needle in a haystack. An aside, this wine normally retails at $30 but I’ve seen it on numerous occasions under $20. It has great strawberry, smoke and spice.

• Sineann Red Table Wine: The words “Pinot Noir Blend” normally should scare the heck out of you but this wine works. A noted Oregon Pinot producer dumps Pinot, Cab, Zin, with bits of Cab Franc and Merlot into this wine. It’s crazy good. No, make that CRAZY good for $17,99.

• Santa Barbara Sauvignon Blanc: Nothing beats a nice crisp Sauv Blanc with seafood. If you can pick this one up for $11.99 like I did you have an outstanding value. California still makes some of the world’s most interesting whites.

• Mondavi Private Selection Meritage: It’s one of the best ‘supermarket’ lines available and the Meritage might be the best of the bunch. It’s a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot from Monterey County. At $11, or cheaper, it’s great wine.

• Ca de Rocchi Montere Ripasso: Ripasso has been hot in the wine world. It’s a Valpolicella region in northern Italy. Serve this Italian with pasta and your guests will think you spent much more. It’s big, rich wine for $18.

• Obra Prima Reserva Malbec: I mentioned this wine in my last column, but it needs to be on this list for great value. It’s a big wine with huge dark fruit, chocolate and a balanced finish. At $17, it’s good as Malbec gets in the price range.

• Oliver 2010 Shiraz Reserve: An Indiana wine makes the list again this year with an asterisk. I like this wine so much I’m breaking a rule. The wines here all retail under $25, except for this one at $26. You think you know Oliver wines? Taste the Shiraz blind with friends and see how many are surprised.

• Domaine Joly Blanc: I stopped putting the wines in order a couple of years ago, but if there was going to be a No. 1 on this year’s list it might be this $12 white from France’s Languedoc region. This is goregous Grenache Blanc at a value price.

So there is the list for another year.

I could review my blog posts and probably come up with an entirely different 10 on another day. But these are wines I’m confident would not disappoint any wine drinker.

Go to my blog at for a look at previous year’s lists.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, Ind., writes about value wine every other week for 21 Midwestern newspapers.