Exactly What the Doctor Ordered: Some New Wine Recommendations Under $10-12

I’ve been in a rut the last few months with wine. Many of the wines I used to enjoy now taste like grape juice with alcohol, and the ones I do still really enjoy are slightly more $$$ than I’m willing to spend with any regularity.

So when I stumbled upon a wine blog called Dr. Vino, and one of the first posts I saw was about the relative scarcity of decent American wines under $10-12, I welcomed some new ideas.

Some that sound worth trying, based on reader comments:

  • Laurel Glen REDS
  • Estancia Cabernet
  • Bogle Petite Syrah
  • Red Bicyclette Syrah
  • From the state of Washington: Pine & Post, 14 Hands, Snoqualmie, Chateau St. Michelle, Columbia, and Columbia-Crest (which I already like a lot and see as a tremendous value)
  • Maison Joseph Druhon Beaujolais VillagesChateau St. Michelle Blanc de Noir
  • Mirassou Pinot Noir
  • Trinchero Sauvignon Blanc
  • Niebaum-Coppola Rosso
  • Cosentino Meritage “Novelist”

In general, I should get away from California, and try more from Washington, Oregon, Argentina, Chile, Spain, France, and South Africa. I know the Argentinian Malbec is very hot right now.

The flip side of this discussion, of course, is why so many American wines are so expensive. I believe marketing explains most of this. The U.S. wine market caters to both the snob and the simplistic, leaving the mid-grade consumer mostly un-served. Maybe that market just isn’t big enough yet, or maybe U.S. wine producers are missing out.

Either way, I now have a list of new wines to try! Life is good. 😉

  1. Mike said:

    Hey JB,

    I live in California and rarely buy California wine. If I can get a superior Italian, French, or New Zealand product for less money, why would I?

    California wine is one of the most over-inflated markets I’ve ever seen. When I lived in the Bay Area, I’d see people go up to Napa and spend $40-$50 on garbage. The reality is, most Americans wouldn’t know a good wine from a bad one. They make their choices based on the bottle designs, the names of the vineyards, and names of the grapes (example: women love ordering Pinot Grigio and Merlot simply because they like how both sound. If you blind folded most Americans and had them taste a Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, and an Alsatian Riesling, they wouldn’t have the faintest idea which was which. Same goes for reds with Cab, Merlot, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, etc.)

    In my view, California’s best grape in Zinfandel. You have to pay, but then you can get a good one. Some Petit Syrah’s are okay also. Oregon makes some great Pinot Noir’s. Look for Domaine Drouhin, but it’s a bit pricey.

    But generally, for reds, I like French Chateauneuf du Pape and many Italian Varietals. For white, I love German Riesling, French Vouvray, and both Italian and New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. There are several exceptions that I like also, but these are my general preferences.

  2. Got here from Chaz’s place. I’d disagree with Mike, but then I’m starting up a winery in Sonoma, so I’m completely biased.

    I’d suggest that you look past the popular varietals (Cab, Merlot, Zin) and check out the blends and innovative wines that are coming out of some of the smaller wineries in California (largely Sonoma, Santa Cruz area, Paso Robles, Santa Inez). You’ll notice that most American supermarkets and even wine stores insist on categorizing wines by varietal. So if someone is making a great Grenache/Syrah/Cinsault blend (basically a Rhone style wine) it gets lumped together on a shelf called Other Reds.

    But these can be some of the most interesting wines out there, since they are custom blended and tweaked according to what the grapes were doing that year. (Grenache too light, add in some Mourvedre for body…etc.)

    That said, in a few years I’ll be coming back here to get you in a wine club.

  3. Mike said:

    One other thing.

    There are definitely good California wines. I don’t intend to give the wrong impression. It’s the pricing that’s ridiculous.

    Having said that, I saw a good movie last night, ‘Bottle Shock’. It’s the story of a blind wine tasting competition in Paris in 1976 that pitted California wines against French. It’s a true story and was a significant event.

    In the competition, the esteemed French judges chose a California Chardonnay (Chateau Montelena) and a California Cab (Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars) for 1st prize. The judges were shocked when they learned which were which.

    I’ll leave it at that and don’t want to spoil anything further. Though, I’m thinking you probably know of the historical event. The ‘talkie’ has a good cast too with Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, and the new Capt. Kirk of the Enterprise., Chris Pine.

  4. Thanks for the suggestions!

    Ironically, not too long ago my wife and I went to the winery, Chateau Montelena, that the movie “Bottle Shock” is about. Had some good wine (some of our favorite of our entire wine tour through Sonoma and Napa) in a very nice setting and heard all about that upcoming movie. Haven’t seen it yet, but plan to.

    Full agreement on the Zin and high-priced California wines. Sure, who doesn’t love a $35 (or $75) bottle of Kendall Jackson Reserve Cabernet? But I like wine as a regular part of my week, not just as something to celebrate with. I rarely even spend $35 on a single-malt Scotch, and that would last a hell of a lot longer than a single bottle of wine. 😉

  5. Thanks Lisa! I do like the blends, they are in fact my favorite style of Red. I’ve tried a few, Menage a Trois and Red Truck and a couple others, and liked them pretty much across the board. Any other suggestions?

  6. Mike said:

    Hey Lisa Paul,

    I like what Mendocino did as far as the ‘Coro Mendocino’ thing, naming wines for the region as opposed to the grape. I find it odd how California wineries name their wines for particular grapes. Every wine is a blend to some extent.

    I dig the Sonoma thing and the mom and pop vineyards up there. I wish you the best. Plus, I’m well aware that the Sonoma wineries are priced much better than Napa.

    However, I still think it’s overpriced considering European import alternatives. One major factor is subsidy. In the US, we subsidize milk, and dairy isn’t very healthy for adults. In Italy, they subsidize wine… so it’s very affordable.

    JB, you’d flip for this store we have here in LA. It’s call the Wine Expo and their schtick is to provide you with twice as much wine at half the price… and good quality. Check it out:


    You’d love this store. They have tons of wines for under $12. Speaking of which, now that it’s summer time, I’ll be stocking up on Lambrusco. I love that stuff.

    Have you ever had Lambrusco? Have you ever had a good quality German Riesling Kabinett? It’s a must for summer. Have you had any New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’s? They’re excellent and affordable. They have a great mineral quality to them.

  7. Don’t believe I’ve ever had Lambrusco, no. The Whites I’m just ok with, not a big white wine fan, although for what it is, I do like Riesling and the one Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand I’ve tried (Brancott, supposed to be a poor man’s Kim Crawford). Thanks for the suggestions though.