Your passport to affordable wines

By Lou Phillips



Shelly Fadness and Patty McCaffery pouring the 2012 Estancia cab.


What would you do if there was a local event with creative specialties from local food wizards matched with wines from the world over? What if this Bacchanal cost as little as $35 per person and benefitted local causes? You’d go, of course.

Passport to Dining, presented by North Tahoe Business Association, is just such an event. Held every November, local purveyors of outstanding food and drink vied for our affections with amazing taste sensations to benefit the Tahoe Public Arts.

Lanza’s, Restaurant Trokay, Soule Domain, The Biltmore, Caliente, Jason’s, Las Panchitas, CB’s and Steamers were among the many that brought the art of food. All of that fine dining set the stage for the star of Wine Time … Vino.

Pinot Noir
Pinot Noir is a versatile food wine and was well represented. It was a pleasant surprise to find such quality with all of these in the $15 range.

The 2012 Angeline, Sonoma, is full of bright, red fruit that dances with freshness and balance. Carmel Road in Monterey is one of the few wineries to achieve the sustainability designation, SIP, showing environmental stewardship in all areas of operation. The 2012 Pinot had a nice, earthy streak to go along with clean cherry flavors. The 2013 Cono Sur from Chile show’s that country’s potential for Pinot. Intense smoke, mineral and ripe cranberry flavors abound.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon also made a big showing, and among the stars were the 2009 Bonitata at $29 is made from Rutherford (Napa) grapes, and has blackberry, dusty tannins and a touch of mint. The 2012 Estancia at $15 from Paso Robles was a crowd-pleaser with that great Paso intensity of dark fruits and voluptuous mouth feel. CB’s matched some of its new bistro menu with the 2011 Milbrandt Family Cab. Milbrandt grows grapes for some of the priciest producers in Washington and the trickle-down effect is in full play here as you’d be hard pressed to find a better $15 Cab.


White wines

The white wines also were flowing and Uncorked brought the 2013 Paco & Lola Albarino at $19. Floral and refreshing, this wine seems to shine every vintage.

The 2012 Angeline Chardonnay at $15 is full of fresh pears, a touch of butterscotch and bright acidity. The 2012 Highway 12 Chardonnay, Carneros, at $17 is as complex a Chard as you’ll find under $20. Winter spices cover apples and cream, all delivered in a dry and food friendly package.


Lou Phillips is a Level 3 (Advanced) Sommelier specializing in advising private collectors and businesses. He may be reached at (775) 544-3435 or [email protected]