VALUES

Our panels tasted 1,758 new-release wines for this January/February 2004 issue, and singled out a range of inexpensive wines for the value they offer. W&S critics Tara Q. Thomas and Patrick Comiskey then tasted these wines and rated them for their quality-price ratio. These ten wines - designated "Good Value" or "Exceptional Value" - represent the best overall quality for the lowest price. Suggested national retail prices have been quoted by the winery or importer, but prices in your area may vary considerably. If you shop carefully, you may be able to find these wines at a significant discount to the price listed here.

WHITES
GV I Veramonte $10
2003 Casablanca Valley Sauvignon Blanc
Green apple scents blend with the grassy aromas of this sauvignon, the flavors packed into firm acidity. For a light and refreshing dish, like ceviche.
Franciscan Estate Selections, Rutherford, CA
 
GV I Eola Hills $10
2002 Oregon Pinot Gris
Lavender, peach and honeysuckle aromas lead into this decadent wine. It has the feel and flavor of pear nectar; completely hedonistic, and a steal for the price. (1,800 cases)
Eola Hills Wine Cellars, Rickreal, OR
 
EV I Rancho Zabaco $10
2002 California Dancing Bull Sauvignon Blanc
Green as fresh cut grass, with flavors of melon and herb, this sauvignon is fresh and frisky. Serve ice cold with a plate of razor clams.
Zabaco Vintners, Healdsburg, CA
 
REDS
GV I Hardys $6
2002 South Australia Shiraz
Light and spicy, this wine's clean, raspberry jam flavors will beef up a chicken pot pie.
Pacific Wine Partners, Gonzales, CA
 
GV I Parducci $8.99
2001 Mendocino Vintner Select Pinot Noir
A chunky pinot, with gripping texture and red cherry flavors, this is a rustic red for ribs off the grill.
Parducci Wine Cellars, Ukiah, CA
 
GV I Septima $8.99
2002 Mendoza Malbec
Welcome to malbec's sunny side. This wine's black cherry flavors are as fresh as a summer breeze, the taste simple, vivaceous and clean.
Vinum Int'l, Napa, CA
 
GV I Beringer $12
2002 California Founder's Estate Pinot Noir
Fresh and bright, with strawberry aromas a zippy acidity and almost no oak; pour this refreshing pinot with your turkey sandwich with cranberry relish.
Beringer Vineyards, St. Helena, CA
 
GV I Domaine Laurier $12.99
2001 Sonoma County Pinot Noir
This pinot has Sonoma ripeness, its red cherry flavors paired against a nice herbal tang that contributes to its texture. Pour a glass with rosemary'd roast chicken.
Domaine Laurier Winery, Sonoma, CA
 
EV I Concha y Toro $14
2001 Puente Alto Marqués de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon
The best Marqués cabernet yet: strawberry and cassis flavors fill out a voluptuous texture, their freshness and juicy richness balancing the ripe tannins. Try it with roast duck and raspberry sauce.
Banfi Vintners, Old Brookville, NY
 
GV I Bodega Weinert $15
1997 Luján de Cuyo Gran Vino Reserva Malbec
Old-vine malbec gives black cherry flavors layered over a powerful yet elegant structure. Scents of cinnamon and clove add to the complexity, while the vibrant, sophisticated fruit lasts on and on.
Weinert & Radisic Int'l Corp., NY
 

In this time of tight wallets there's an awful lot of cheap wine out there. But cheap doesn't matter if the wine isn't good. At W&S, we define "good" as tasting like what a wine says it is; if the label reads "merlot," we don't want a glass of broccoli. That's not all: it's got to be lip-smacking, too. These may sound like high requisites for wines that sell for $15 or less, but here are 54 brands that manage it regularly - 20 American and 34 imported. Every winery listed here had at least two - but more likely four and up to nine - wines for $15 or less that were recommended over the last 12 months. These are names you can rely on when you walk into a new store or glance down an unfamiliar wine list, or simply when you want lots of bang for your buck. There's something for every occasion, from cheerful sparklers and spaghetti reds to whites with four-star class and steakhouse pours that would impress the boss.

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