Under $20 values from Q Collection wines

For many wine lovers, $20 remains a glass ceiling. For some, it’s the most they’ll ever spend on a bottle, and for others, it’s a threshold they only consider crossing for special occasions and holidays. However, there’s a ton of wine available on store shelves all over the country for under $20; the trouble is that so much of it isn’t very good. I’m constantly on the lookout for wines that are well priced, with a sense of their origins and most importantly delicious.

The Q Collection is a label that is putting out a series of regional wines. These offerings are under $20 and each provides drinking pleasure that exceeds the price point. Each one also shows clear typicity, both to the grape in question and the specific area it was grown in. They also clock in at under 14% alcohol. Here’s a look at the individual wines.

Q Collection 2015 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($18)

The Russian River Valley is one of California’s best for Chardonnay, but depending on a ton of factors, there are all sorts of results one might get from Chardonnay grown there. Specifically, when we’re talking about under $20 Chardonnay, the use of oak (often oak chips) can be obtrusive and create elements that seem anything but natural. That’s not a problem here. This Chardonnay is loaded with orchard fruit aromas and flavors. Golden delicious apple, Anjou pear and more dominate the show here. Pie crust and baker’s spices lead the finish, which also shows off a hint of crème fraiche and a subtle mineral component. Firm acid keeps things in check.

Q Collection 2015 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($18)

I’m not sure there’s much that is more elusive in the wine world than Pinot Noir under $20 that’s worth drinking. So many of the wines labelled Pinot Noir under that price taste like almost anything but what the label says. In many cases, upon tasting them, the best I could say is that it’s red wine. Too often they’re blended with other grapes to darken the color or sweeten the blend. At the end of the day, you end up with something really anonymous tasting. A lot of people are making a ton of money on wines like that. There are several examples that sell by the truckload and are closer in flavor profile to Welch’s grape juice than genuine Pinot, so beware.

But occasionally, I run across a Pinot Noir under $20 that makes me take note. Honestly, most of those are from Chile, so when one that passes muster from California crosses my desk, I’m pretty surprised. This selection from Q Collection certainly startled me. The Sonoma Coast is a cool growing region from which lots of great Pinots have emerged. This one is loaded with strawberry aromas that are underpinned by wisps of mushroom and subtle spice. Red cherry, continued strawberry and bits of vanilla dominate the palate. The finish is soft, lush and loaded with character. Bits of earth, bay leaf and continued red fruits are all in evidence. This is shockingly solid Pinot Noir for the price.

Q Collection 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($19)

Everyone knows Napa Valley is Cabernet Country. There are Cabs from Napa Valley in just about every conceivable price category. The vast majority of Napa Cabs are of course priced well above $20, and a fair enough number of them exceed triple figures. Those are often (but not always) sub-appellation and Vineyard specific offerings. With that in mind, it’s fair to ask what one can expect in a sub-$20 Napa Valley Cabernet. As simple as it sounds, it must first taste like Cabernet Sauvignon. Secondly, it should be pretty clear it’s from Napa Valley. And last but most importantly, you should want to keep drinking it. This bottle from Q Collection hits all of those markers. From the first whiff to the last sip, it’s full of dark fruit aromas and flavors. Spice notes, earth and a dusting of sweet cocoa are all in evidence too. It’s got big enough shoulders to support full-favored foods, but it falls close enough to the middle not to require them. If you’re looking for a bottle that’s clearly Napa Cab meant for early drinking, this is a solid choice.

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