These Holiday Wines and Sparkling Wines Won’t Break the Bank

Plus, a holiday punch that will impress your guests

[Many of these wines were tasted in 2022, but they are all high quality producers with consistent wines]

 

In the hyper- inflationary world we live in, value has never been more important when considering your wine purchases. Value, however, does not necessarily mean “cheap.” It simply means you are getting something at a better price relative to its peer group—in this case, wines of similar quality.

 

Here are 8 wines we love, ranging from $12-$60, that I consider a good value.

 

 

La Forge Estate Syrah 2018 (SRP $12)

The Languedoc region is located in Southern France, along a Mediterranean coastal area known as “The Occitanie” that stretches from the Spanish border to Provence.

 

First-generation winemaker (fourth generation grape grower) Jean-Claude Mas is one of the leading new winemakers in this area of Southern France that is making some really exciting wines at great prices.

 

This wine has an intense nose, with notes of crushed flowers and blueberry combined with white pepper and licorice, supported by a hint of oak. Full-bodied with plush tannins, this Syrah has a smooth mouthful, with notes of grilled meats, tobacco, leather and blackberry current on the finish.

 

Chapoutier ‘Bila-Haut’ Cotes du Roussillon Blanc 2020 (SRP $15)

 

Chapoutier is a perfect example of “value does not necessarily mean cheap.” In fact, Chapoutier’s upper echelon wines are some of the most expensive in the Rhone Valley, yet still a good value. Their wines from the Languedoc region, however, come in at much lower points. And their ‘Bila Haut’ Cotes du Roussillon Blanc is downright cheap. Cheap and really good. You can’t find a better value than that.

 

A blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Macabeu, Vermentino and Marsanne, this Cotes du Roussillon Blanc from world-class Rhone producer M. Chapoutier, is round and rich, yet balanced with good minerality, ample acidity and tons of bright flavors. Alluring white peach, quince and lemon zest give way to saline and limestone notes on the finish.

 

 

2019 Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec (SRP $20)

I have always liked Malbec as a plush, soft tannin, mellow alternative to bigger Bordeaux varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon. However, I have always felt there was a ceiling to its quality. That is before I met Germán di Cesare, chief winemaker at Mendoza Valley’s Bodega Trivento and tried two of their reserve Malbecs.

 

At $20, their “Golden Reserve” is a terrific wine and a great value. This wine reminds me of a Napa Valley red blend, with bright red fruits wafting out of the glass. The soft tannins and complex fruit-forward flavors make it a great match for a range of foods including filet of beef, hearty pasta dishes, hard cheeses and rich hors deurves.

 

 

2018 Carmel “Appellation” Cabernet Sauvignon, Galilee, Israel

 

Israel is one of the world’s most underappreciated wine regions and the quality of their wines is only getting better. From the Upper Galilee region, this Cabernet is fruit forward with red currents, holiday spices, anise and tobacco. The tannins are soft and plush allowing this wine to pair nicely with a lot of dishes, both simple and hearty.

 


2019 Benovia Sonoma Mountain Grenache ($45)

Benovia is known for their Russian River Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, which are also a relative value compared to some of the lofty prices coming out of Russian River these days. Rhone varietals often command much lower price points in Sonoma than the Burgundian varietals which the region is known for. This means they can be great values and at $45 a bottle, this Grenache is a steal.

 

Cherry, raspberry and crushed flowers are followed by pepper, spice, grilling meats and subtle oak notes. The soft but adequate tannins make this a nice wine to have with cheeses and passed appetizers, or as a cocktail wine.

 

 

2020 Drouhin Oregon Roserock Amity-Eola Amity Hills

 

If you’re into points, then this wine will definitely get your attention. With 95 points from James Suckling and 94 points from Wine Spectator (and on their Top 100 Wines list) you might think this wine would cost north of $100. It does not. At $35, with many accolades, your only problem is getting your hands on it.

 

Pear, white peach and lemon zest vibrate on the palate and linger for minutes. This wine is rich and opulent with great minerality and acidity making it a great match for many of your dishes this holiday season.

 

 

2016 Frank Family Blanc de Blancs (SRP $55)

Frank Family is one of the more expensive names in Napa Valley, yet they have some relative values when considering price-to-quality. Their sparkling wines are particulary good values in my opinion. Napa will never be able to compete with “Champagne,” nor do they try to. As a result, Napa producers are realistic about the demand for their sparkling wines and thus realistic on pricing. This presents an opportunity for consumers who are willing to trade vanity for value.

 

The 2016 Blanc de Blancs displays wonderful finesse, lightness, and elegance. A classic bouquet of lemon peel, green apple, and honeyed nuts persist to a pristinely fresh palate. Delicate beads of bubbles intermingle with hints of browned butter cut by crystalline acidity that converge with a long, tangy finish.

 

 

2018 Priest Ranch Brut Rose (SRP $60)

This luxurious méthode Champenoise sparkling wine is made entirely from estate-grown Syrah grapes from the Somerston Estate in the eastern hills of the Napa Valley. Aged 24 months on its lees, with an additional 24 months in bottle, this Napa Valley sparkler is smooth and complex with mouth watering flavors of tangerine and peach upfront and “strawberries and cream,” and macadamia nut on the finish.

 

Want to add some more flavor and pizzazz to your party using some of your red wine and champagne (or sparkling wine)?  Here is a great punch recipe—with a festive hue—from our resident mixologist, A.J. Rathbun.

 

Cardinal Punch

This is kind of a curious punch, at first glance, with its two liquors, two kinds of bubbles, English drawing room favorite claret (but no ascots to be found), and then (as if that weren’t enough), a curious coalescence of sweet vermouth, orange, pineapple, and a bit of simple syrup (well, maybe a touch more than a bit–a sweet bite, let’s call it). It almost seems, at that first glance, doomed to fail. But to use a metaphor that matches the title, it actually flies like a bird, with every flavor slipping here and there to the forefront (like birds in a flock as they fly, if I may be so bold), and with a serious enough undertone hiding within that it can both charm and fortify. As a bonus, it looks lovely, with a deep rich coloring. All in all, it’s so darn swell that I nominated it for Punch of the Year, 2008. And, you know what? It won. Of course, I was the only judge, but hey, that’s how the contest went.

 

Serves 10 to 12

 

12 ounces brandy

12 ounces dark rum

16 ounces claret red wine (Merlot or Cabernet will suffice)

12 ounces Simple Syrup

4 ounces sweet vermouth

1 ice round, or cracked ice

1 orange, cut into slices

5 pineapple rounds, cut into chunks

One 2-liter bottle chilled club soda

One 750-milliliter bottle brut sparkling wine

 

1. Pour the brandy, rum, claret, simply syrup, and vermouth into a large punch bowl. Stir slightly with a long spoon.

2. Add the ice round to the punch, or add enough cracked ice that the bowl is almost halfway full.

3. Add the orange slices and pineapple chunks, and slowly add the club soda. Stir again, but not frantically.

4. Gently add the sparkling wine and stir–but just once more. Serve in white wine glasses or punch cups.

 

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