WINE LINE: Reaching for proven winners

02/26/2013 5:24 PM

02/26/2013 5:25 PM

One of the main goals in writing this column is to help you, the consumer. If you feel a bit intimidated by the massive wine wall in your supermarket, don't feel alone.

Markets normally don't employ a wine steward to assist or answer questions you might have and that's unfortunate. A bit of wine education in the marketplace would certainly increase wine sales and also satisfy the needs of the novice wine buyer. It's definitely a win-win for both sides.

How about using the largest American wine judging in the world to help you select wines within your budget? The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, with more than 5,500 entries, can do that. It awards medals to wines separated by prices. In other words a $6 chardonnay would not be judged against a $25 one. I like that. By using wines that won best of class, double gold and gold medals within their like price range, I've put together a list of award-winning wines that will keep you within your wine budget.

Budget-price range

Sutter Home Family Vineyards won five gold medals for its gewürztraminer, chenin blanc, white zinfandel, white merlot and merlot. The suggested retail price for these wines is $6, but they are often priced below $5. When you consider that the winery's sauvignon blanc, riesling, pinot noir and sweet white took silver medals, Sutter Home Family Vineyards would be a wise wine buy. Other wineries to consider in this price range are Barefoot, flipflop and Domino wines.

Value price range

The Ripon-based McManis Winery scored a best of class award for its petite sirah and three gold medals for its zinfandel, barbera and merlot. McManis' chardonnay picked up a sliver and the viognier, a bronze. All are priced at $10.99, and that's a tremendous value. I recently tasted the petite sirah and the barbera. Both are excellent. Another value-priced winery to consider is Bogle Vineyards. Its red blend took best of class and gold medals went to its pinot noir and merlot. Sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, zinfandel, petite sirah and cabernet sauvignon all took silver awards. Another choice for good value would be Chateau Ste. Michelle. All three brands have been featured in the What's on our Table section of this column.

Moderate price range

The big winner, in the up to $19.99 price category, was the Diamond Collection Series made by Francis Ford Coppola. The merlot ($19), claret ($18) and red blend ($18) all won best of class. Double gold went to pinot grigio ($16), Monterey pinot noir ($18) and cabernet sauvignon ($18). Another choice is J. Lohr Vineyards. This winery scored two double gold awards for the Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon ($17) and the Los Osos Merlot ($15). Five other Lohr wines took gold medals but all were over my price limit, except a deliciously light red, a 2011 Valdiguie ($10). All the wines in this column are readily available and proven winners.

Good luck, stay within your budget and remember, drink what you like. Cheers!

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