Great wine values | Part I

When it comes to wine, as in all things, everybody loves a great value. Even my friends with multi-thousand bottle cellars full of trophy bottles can’t hide their excitement when they turn me on to their latest delicious less-than-$20 discovery. But how does a wine lover who doesn’t have the opportunity to scour wine publications or taste hundreds of wines each year reliably find these values?

Chateau Ste. Michelle. | Courtesy St. Michelle Wine Estates

Fear not. As someone who has focused on the wine world for decades in my roles as wine writer, educator, consultant and working sommelier, I am here to help.

This will not be a complete list, however, this column and the next will be great starting points for your value wine-journey. Rather than citing specific wines, I am going to give you the skinny on producers and brands and regions that consistently deliver exceptional quality price ratio from vintage to vintage and at all price points.

These guys specialize in bold, not-for-the-faint-of-heart reds with entertaining names like “7 Deadly Zins,” “Freakshow” Cabernet Sauvignon and my perennial favorite, “Petite Petit.”

Let’s start with a top domestic brand: Chateau Ste. Michelle. Owners of several wineries, such as Columbia Crest, Hogue and St. Michelle, focus on Washington State fruit almost exclusively from estate vineyards. Across all varietals, from delicate Rieslings to sturdy Cabernets, with prices from $7 to $100, their wines bring the goodness.

Whimsical labels, serious wine. | Lou Phillips

Another U.S. winery that delivers is Michael David. The Phillips brothers come from a farming family with roots in Lodi going back to the 1800s. When they decided to make wine, they stayed right at home. These guys specialize in bold, not-for-the-faint-of-heart reds with entertaining names like “7 Deadly Zins,” “Freakshow” Cabernet Sauvignon and my perennial favorite, “Petite Petit,” an absolute rocking blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot. These wines are made for big and bold foods or for keeping you warm on a cool night.

Next up is Gerard Bertrand Wines from the south of France. Bertrand is a former professional rugby star who returned to his roots in the Languedoc region. He offers quality wines that reflect the terroir — distinctive red blends primarily from Syrah and Grenache, as well as unique whites from Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Picpoul. These will remind you of Rhône wines that cost two to three times as much. As a matter of fact, for lovers of Rhône wines, Languedoc wines, especially the ones that have village designates such as Pic St. Loup, Minervois or Corbieres on the label, are great bang-for-the-buck alternatives.

Remember, it’s not just the quality and value of the wines these producers offer, but also the fact they have been bringing yummy wine thunder year after year for decades and that qualifies them for this Quality Price Ratio Hall of Fame.

There’s more education to come next issue. Read Part II in the next edition of Tahoe Weekly or at


Lou Phillips

Lou is a Level 3 Sommelier based on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, who loves traveling the wine world doing research for his writing. He also consults for collectors and businesses buying and selling fine wine and creating special events.