Some of the best wines in 2013 were some of the best values of 2012 and should remain so.
Here's a watch list for the months ahead. Be patient because even bargain wines are sold at a discount from time to time:
California, Washington, Oregon
Yes, you can afford a bottle from Caymus Vineyards for less than $60, the only thing is it will have to be a white. Conundrum, a blend of four white grapes, is an excellent value at $15-$17. Citrusy crisp, this is a good sipper to start the evening or to enjoy with seafood and spicy dishes ... Looking for something complex and intriguing? Try Uvaggio Vermentino from Lodi ($14) with light fare ... If you see the "River Road" label on a Chardonnay, buy it. These Russian River Valley gems, creamy and oaky, sell for half the price of big name products, from $15.99 to $19.99 ... Annabella Chardonnay, at $13, is a palate pleaser as is Kendall Jackson's budget-friendly Avant Chardonnay ($15) ... Zocker Paragon Vineyard took a gamble on Gruner Veltliner ($20) and won with a clean, refreshing drink ... Louis M. Martin Wineries is as consistent as they come in producing quality cabernet sauvignon at all price levels. Look for a sale price of $19.99 on the Napa Valley ... One of my favorites is Liberty School Cabernet of Paso Robles. It's a "best buy" in numerous wine magazines and for good reason. It's dry, elegant and pleasurable at $12 ... One of the steals of the season was the 2010 Napa Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon at $10 a bottle. Watch for the 2011 to come on line and grab it ... Masked Rider's Petite Syrah ($13) is lush and delicious ... Turning to Pinot Noir, Cameron Hughes usually comes up with a quality wine, and the 2009 Lot 271 from Russian River Valley was one of the best. It sold for $14 ... My favorite pinot noir finds last year were Poppy from Monterrey ($12) and Talbot Kali Hart ($15) from the Central Coast. Aromatic, well-structured, ripe fruit and long finish.
Oregon and Washington vintners are attaining great success with brands from Eola Hills, Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, and Columbia Valley. These regions are sizzling with most varietals, and my favorites are the dry Rieslings -- Argyle ($18), Pacific Rim ($11), Firesteed ($12), Hogue ($8) and the impressive Chehalem ($24) and Eroica ($24)... Jones of Washington Estates set the pace with its tropical flavored 2011 Pinot Gris ($12) and StoneCap did the same with its estate-grown Syrah ($8). StoneCap also produces inexpensive, top-quality Chardonnay, Riseling and Merlot in the $10-$15 range.
Italian winemakers take a back seat to no one, and there are some great offers you just can't refuse among the thousands of brands on the market ... The 2007 Frescobaldi Nipozzano Riserva (Chianti Rufina) was an incredible buy at $22 in 2012 and Wine Enthusiast ranked it No. 1 on its 2011 must-have list. There is still some of it around ... Very rarely can you buy a solid Brunello di Montalcino below $40, but you you get an incredible taste of the sangiovese grape in the Capanne Ricci Rosso di Montalcino ($15). A case of this in the cellar is as good as gold ... Not too far behind is the Caprilli Rosso di Montalcino ($15) ... The Nero D'Avola grape is one of my favorites and Stemmari Sicilia produces a fine arancia grillo (dry citrus) flavor that is sensational. It costs $9 ... Wine Spectator ranked the 2010 Folonari Chianti ($9) as one of its top wines in 2012 ... The Robert Anselmi unoaked white from the Veneto ($13), a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvigon Blanc and Garganega; the Michele Chiarlo Barbera d'Asti Superiore ($15), and the Machesi di Barolo Barbera ($12) were also ranked among the best on WS's list ... The 2007 Valdisanti (Tolaini, $36), is a Super Tuscan that exudes quality and is my personal favorite.
Visit http://blogs.lowellsun.com/winenovice. Follow Jim Campanini on Twitter @suneditor.