The November issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine arrived in the mail a week ago and I've been slowly making my way through its 144 pages. What an adventure!: There are 850 wines listed from all over the world.
I love reading the wine experts' descriptions of the bottles they've reviewed. "Notes of meyer lemon, tangerine, pear and even a hint of candied papaya mingle beautifully, set in a fine-tuned frame of acid and mineral," is the way a 2009 Oak Knoll Pinot Gris from Washington State is described.
Now if the Wine Goddess heard me talk like that around the house, or in the pergola, she'd be phoning Father Sannella for the name of an exorcist.
I'll likely never possess the master palate to detect all the fruity ingredients and mineral elements that create the expressive tastes of a particular wine.
I'm particularly proud of being able to see a good deal when I taste one, even if I don't have Robert Parker's million-dollar palate. So I feel good today. That's because the WE's "Top 100 Best Buys of 2012" validates several of my unique discoveries over the past year, in which value and quality are the utmost priorities. According to WE, the wines listed sell for $15 or less. Their tasting experts reviewed "more than 17,000 wines during the course of the year, awarding Best Buy recommendations to only 1,134 (roughly 6.7 percent).
From there, they whittled down the list to the top 100, based on "an excellent quality to price ratio."
So guess what is No. 2 on the list? None other than Chateau Ste.
Two more slots down WE's list, at No. 4, is the 2009 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon from Paso Robles. "You get a lot of pleasure from this affordable Cab... It's one of the best Cabernets of the vintage at this price ($12)," said the review. Last March, I highlighted 90-point Liberty School in my blog. Presently, I have two bottles resting in the basement.
Next, at No. 10, is the 2011 Pacific Rim 2011 Dry Riesling from Columbia Valley. "This puts a spicy spin on citrus rind, peach and apricot flavors," is the WE description. It costs $11. Once again, the Wine Goddess takes the credit for combining this with a spicy Asian noodle dish on a Saturday night in May. It was an exotic evening.
My own selections come in No. 13 -- 2010 Loosen Bros. Dr. L. Riesling ($12) -- and at No. 19 -- 2008 Hogue Red Table Wine from Columbia Valley ($7). WE rated them 90 points and 89 points, respectively. About the Hogue: A woman who reads my column regularly said she went to a local wine store and asked to purchase this wine. The shop manager told her it was "no good" and sold her a bottle of another wine at twice the price. Here's what WE says about the Cabert/Merlot/Syrah blend: "Well-crafted, with a pleasing florality in the finish. An outstanding value." I rest my case.
In June, I purchased a 2010 Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages ($10) but, I must admit, I never drank it. The Wine Goddess took it to a flight attendants' reunion party and reported back that it was worth going to Paris to buy more. It's No. 50 on WE's list and I'm kicking myself that I didn't take her advice.
My final pick to make WE's Best Buy list is the 2010 Alamos Red Blend from Argentina ($13). It came in at No. 95 and is described this way: "Ripe blackberry and cherry flavors rest in front of a good finish that's full of vanilla and chocolate notes."
Seven wines in the WE's Top 100 isn't bad.
I didn't come close to tasting 17,000 wines in 12 months; I'm lucky if I made it to 500, so I consider myself to be very astute in finding great bargains that are highly enjoyable.
Lastly, most of the selections I write about are recommended by local wine merchants who operate their own stores. You should get to know them and listen to what they say. However, don't forget who's watching out for your palate -- the Wine Novice.