Okay, I’ll admit it: After 30-plus years of drinking wine, I have become something of a wine snob. So it may come as somewhat of a surprise that I’d be touting wines on the lower end of the price spectrum.
My wine-drinking history is probably similar to that of most people. As a poor twenty-something, I drank whatever swill I could afford: Mateus Rosé, Liebfraumilsch, and the occasional supermarket fighting varietal. Wine was a beverage with alcohol, nothing more.
Then came that fateful trip to the wine country of Napa and Sonoma in 1983. Wow! This stuff tasted great! Buttery Chardonnay… cherry-tinged Merlot… sweet-fruit Zinfandel… delicate Pinot Noir. All were delights to the senses.
Back in the early 1980s, most winery tastings were free, so I didn’t realize the expense of the wines until I took some off the shelves to buy. Oy! They were charging $15 for a decent Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. It was enough to break the bank. I had to learn quickly how to find good-tasting wines that wouldn’t put me into the poorhouse.
I took classes on wine appreciation. I attended many wine tastings, where one could sample dozens of wines to find those that were most pleasing to the palate. I read dozens of books on wine, read weekly wine columns in newspapers, and subscribed to a number of wine-related magazines.
My passion for fine wine led to me organizing a wine-tasting group, then conducting monthly wine education classes, and eventually owning my own wine shop. Along the way, I began writing about wine, and judging wines in professional competitions.
Still, I am well aware that, for every wino that follows the path I have taken, there are hundreds more still looking for that decent, cheap bottle of vino to imbibe daily.
This part of the “Vino, Las Vegas!” blog will be for you. As I drink my way across the Las Vegas valley, I run into a fair share of wines recommend by others that are flat-out bargains. I will make note of where the wines can be purchased, and the price I paid for them.
The latest additions to the list will appear first, so as you read down, keep in mind there’s a growing likelihood that the wines could be sold out.
Primarily Merlot, with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. Nearly opaque dark ruby color. A spiced oak nose of cinnamon, mint and menthol leads to palate-coating creamy chocolate, followed by solid black berry and currant fruit. Another excellent value from Glazier’s Market in Las Vegas.
Retail Price: $7.96 (June 2012)
Wine Lines rating: 88
The Aussies like their “stickies” (dessert wines) cloyingly sweet, but their table white wines dry. Even Riesling. And this is a good thing for bargain hunters, as dry versions of Riesling have a good track record for holding up several years after release. This bottling sold for double digits a few years ago, but here it is at Glazier’s Market in Las Vegas for a fraction of that. Medium straw color. Heady aroma of varietal pine needle and sweet apple. In the mouth, a good dose of acidity brightens up the apple fruit. There’s a kiss of baked apple and rosewater at the finish. Enjoy with baked chicken.
Retail Price: $5.55 (April 2012)
Wine Lines rating: 84
Light straw color. The pungent nose delivers varietal aromas of sweet pea, field herbs, light pineapple, passion fruit and citrus blossom, along with a note of vanilla. The nose gains intensity and focus with aeration. Sassy acidity leads to a pleasing sweet-tart mouthfeel that stays through to the juicy, fruit-driven finish. A great patio wine or summer sipper and a super value, considering it originally was priced at around $17. Drink up!
Retail Price: $5.55 at Glazier’s Market in Las Vegas (April 2012)
Wine Lines rating: 89
Clear straw in color. Pretty aromas of white flowers, vanilla, pineapple, lemon-lime and a smidge of butter play together in the glass. Light butter with a touch of baking spices and caramel add a palate-coating layer to the fruit once the wine is in the mouth. This is a clean, pleasant Chardonnay that has the acid to make it enjoyable with food, but also can serve as a stand-alone aperitif wine. At this price, it’s a no-brainer to use as your everyday house white.
Retail Price: $7.96 at Glazier’s Market in Las Vegas (March 2012)
Wine Lines rating: 87
This joint effort between the winemaking teams of Chateau Ste. Michelle and Germany’s Dr. Loosen has been a winner for the past dozen vintages. This one is light straw in color. The nose has a distinctly German profile — a touch of pine needle leads to crisp citrus, apple and pear aromas. In the mouth, there is a nice balance of sweetness and acidity, picking up flavors of peach, cherry pit and a touch of minerality. This sassy wine can play well by herself, but would be a perfect date for spicy Thai or Szechwan cuisine. I found this gem at Glazier’s Market in Las Vegas for $10.99 — basically, half-price!
MSRP: $22 (February 2012)
Wine Lines rating: 90
Here is another New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Glazier’s Market in Las Vegas. Pale Straw color. The aromas fairly leap from the glass, full of red grapefruit, gooseberry, passionfruit and a note of hay. A bright, sassy acidity cleanses the palate, then delivers fruit that echoes the nose, and adding a layer of lemon/lime minerality. This is a clean, crisp white that provides a lot of pleasure for a pittance of a price.
Retail price: $6 (February 2012)
Wine Lines rating: 90
This easy-drinking red — which we presume is a Sangiovese-based blend — is translucent ruby in hue, with a nose that shows dark flowers, menthol, pepper, sweet red fruits and polished leather. Some drying, chocolaty tannins in the mouth frame sweet cherry fruit. Think of it as Chianti on steroids, at half the price. Currently a featured bargain wine at Glazier’s Market in Las Vegas.
Retail Price: $4.96 (January 2012)
Wine Lines rating: 87
This bargain-priced Napa Cab comes in a bottle commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Los Angeles (nee: California) Angels. Glazier’s Market in Las Vegas got the overflow, and is selling it for a can’t-be-beat price. The wine is deep purple-plum in color, and its captivating nose shows layers of sandalwood, plum, cranberry, dark cherry, allspice and chocolate. A plush, velvety mouthfeel leads to a long fruit-and-spice finish. You’d expect to pay $30 or more for a Napa Cab of this quality.
Retail Price (January 2012): $9.98
Wine Lines rating: 91
This bargain, sold exclusively through Fresh ’n ’Easy stores, demonstrates that a multi-vintage blend made from Tempranillo grapes by a master winemaker can deliver drinking pleasure. The color is a light neon red with no signs of oxidation or bricking. The nose shows a modest perfume of red fruits. Once in the mouth, these focus into sweet red cherry and strawberry. Just off-dry, this is a perfect quaffer that stands alone, or it can be enjoyed with a picnic lunch or buffet spread.
Retail Price: $2.99 (January 2012)
Wine Lines rating: 82
New Zealand, especially the Marlborough region on the southern island, is the undisputed king of Sauvignon Blanc in the $10 to $25 price category. So it is a treat to find a quality bottling at an everyday wino price. This is a current special selection at Glazier’s Market in Las Vegas; elsewhere, your mileage (and price point) may vary. The wine is a clear straw color. A perfumed nose of gooseberry, sweet pea, jalapeño pepper and white grapefruit is quite forward. There’s a brisk sweet-tart entry on the palate, picking up a sharp pineapple flavor. This is a crisp, clean white that is a joy to gulp down now — especially at this price.
Retail Price: $4.98 (January 2012)
Wine Lines rating: 88