By Adam Arlen
Club Sommelier, The Peninsula Club
Prices on Napa Valley wines are rising—look to second labels
With prices on the rise all over Napa Valley, how do you find Opus One quality without the $350 price tag? I always look to the second labels first. Opus Overture is a great start but will still go for over $100, not exactly daily drinker territory for most all of us.
Search out vineyards that are neighbors to the top labels
Your next option will take a little digging on your part. Look to the neighbors. Swanson, Groth Del Dotto, and Robert Mondavi are all close by. I will let you in on a little secret. There is a “Crazy Kiwi” named Nick Goldschmidt, whose vineyard in Oakville is a 7-iron from the front door of Opus One, (about 150 yards for those that are not golfers), and he did at one time sell his grapes to them. You can pick up this little gem from the fantastic 2015 vintage for about $40.
Try Washington State
Still a bit too pricy? Washington State has great value and high quality. Look for brands such as Hogue, Airfield, and Milbrandt for some options under $15. For other options, look to Spain and South America. Chile has been making wine for over 150 years and mostly exports to the United States. Since land and labor costs are so low, you can easily pick up a great bottle for under $10. Look for Santa Rita, Casa Lapostolle, Montes, and Concho & Toro. These long-established houses have multiple price tiers and maintain high quality through them all.
Rioja is a great alternative to California Cabernet
Another option is Spanish wine. Rioja is a great alternative to California Cabernet and is easily mistaken for Cab in blind tastings. The fruit profile and structure are very similar, yet Rioja wines are much more versatile, pairing with almost anything from sushi to steak. Some stand-out producers to look for are Vina Real, Bodegas Lan, Baron de Ley, and Bodegas Hazana, all in the $15 or less category.
Eric Solomon selections are a special treat
If you look on the back label of the bottle and see Eric Solomon Selections, grab it. He partners with grape growers to make a special bottling from their property and import it into the United States. These will showcase a region and show what they do best!