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.

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New Zealand’s Marlborough Region: A lot more than Sauvignon Blanc

Chances are, if you’ve only had a handful of wines from Marlborough, it’s been Sauvignon Blanc. It’s what hit American soil first and, well, they produce a lot of it. It’s certain you’ll continue to see more of it on our shelves too. I just spent two-plus weeks in New Zealand, and winemakers I spoke with are drilling down to produce wines from Sauvignon Blanc that are more specific to both sites and sub regions.

During the couple of days I spent in Marlborough, one thing was abundantly clear: there’s a lot more than great Sauvignon Blanc being produced there. If you’re looking for red wines, there are many fine examples of Pinot Noir that are distinctly different from those grown in Central Otago. If it’s other whites you’re after, there are a bevy of outstanding selections being produced in New Zealand; aromatic whites are a particular strength. The weather, soils and other conditions lends themselves to these grapes thriving. As you can likely imagine, over two-plus weeks, I tasted an awful lot of great wines. Here is a handful from Marlborough that I’m still thinking about. So keep drinking those Savvies, but try some of these too.

Spy Valley 2015 Gewürztraminer ($18)

The fruit for this wine came from a single vineyard. After pressing the grapes, they were slowly fermented and aged in stainless steel. Lychee and apricot notes are evident on the nose along with a hint of vanilla bean. The fruit-driven palate is led by oodles of roasted peaches, white pepper and a hint of nutmeg. Tension between bright fruit and acid marks the long, pleasing finish. This Gewürztraminer is irresistible on its own and it’ll pair beautifully with spicy cuisine such as Thai or Indian.

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Jamieson Ranch: Napa Valley’s gateway winery

As you travel north and enter Napa Valley, Jamieson Ranch Vineyards sits at the gateway. It’s the winery further south than any other in Napa. Their estate is composed of more than 300 acres. From those vines and other fruit, they craft a portfolio of wines under several sub-labels but all part of the overall Jamieson Ranch umbrella. Considering their Napa Valley location and the quality of their general portfolio, there is a lot to like here for the money.

Even their flagship red, Double Lariat Cabernet, is a bargain compared to wines of similar quality from many of their neighbors. Here’s a look at four current releases that I recommend. It’s worth noting that a portion of the profits from the wines under the Light Horse label benefit the Light Horse Foundation. This organization was founded by the winery to help support at risk people, in particular those with autism.

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Spain’s Navarra region features wines packed with flavor & value

The Navarra region located in Northern Spain was for years known largely as a producer of Rosé wines, often made from Garnacha. Over time, that has changed. Today, Navarra features Reds, Whites and Rosés made from a myriad of varieties both local and international. I just tasted through some current release wines from Navarra and I found a lot to like. The wines I sampled offered tons of genuine flavors that are true to the grapes in play. Additionally, they also represent really good values that are well priced for everyday drinking. However, the quality and complexity of a couple selections make them appropriate for special occasions or gifting too.


Bodegas Marco Real 2015 Marco Real Red Young Blend ($11)

This offering blends together Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. As the name indicates, this is a young, lightly aged wine. From the first whiff to the last sip, it’s loaded with fresh, eager red fruit flavors. Cherry and bits of strawberry appear on the nose. The palate is loaded with cherry, leather, raspberry and spices. Bits of mineral and pepper appear on the finish. Here’s a young, juicy wine that goes down easily and will pair with a wide array of foods. At around $10, it’s a really good value.

Bodegas Castillo De Monijardin 2013 Coupage Seleccion ($12)

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo make up this offering. Cherry, tobacco and black pepper notes emerge from the nose. The palate is filled with chewy red fruit flavors and wisps of earth. Leather, red raspberry and roasted espresso emerges on the firm finish. This would pair beautifully with pot roast or strong cheeses.

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2016 Holiday Gift Guide: Wine

Most of us have at least one wine lover on our holiday shopping list. With that in mind, I tasted through a ton of different wines to find some I could recommend in different price ranges. I also tried out some wine-related gift ideas and have a suggestion there too. Each of these wines is delicious and offers more value than the price would indicate. Of course, these also make great choices for your holiday table.


Purple Heart 2014 Red Blend ($20)

This wine is predominately Merlot (80%) with smaller amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon (15%), Petite Sirah (4%) and Petit Verdot (1%) blended in. It’s created in cooperation with the Purple Heart foundation, and each year, a donation is made to them. Dark fruits, violets and bakers spices light up the nose. The palate is bold and substantial with tons of black fruit flavors tinged by intermingling bits of red fruit. Wisps of roasted espresso, mocha and clove are all evident on the substantial finish. This is a delicious wine that helps a good cause.

Alcance 2014 Merlot ($22)

In addition to Merlot (90%), some Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) was blended in. All of the fruit is from the Maule region of Chile, an area where Bordeaux varieties thrive. Cherry, red plum and spices are present on the nose. The palate is stuffed with chewy red fruit flavors, a hint of sage and black pepper spice. These elements all continue on the finish. Supple tannins and firm acid provide structure to this mouthwatering Merlot.

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