Looking back at memorable wines from my 2017 evaluations, I would be remiss if I didn't share the exceptional value wines encountered throughout the year.
Value, as "Wine Talk" readers know, doesn't necessarily mean cheap. I prefer to describe value wines as inexpensive and quality-driven. In my calculations, they must always deliver a bang for the buck. They must taste like wines that are much more expensive.
This year's Top 20 actually has 22 wines, including ties. To make the list, a wine had to cost $20 or less and receive a numerical rating of 91 points or higher.
The value of value wines, if you will, is that they allow the wine enthusiast to serve a nice bottle of wine almost every night at dinner without straining the budget. And they are particularly helpful when entertaining. Everyone will appreciate tasting an $18 wine that could pass for a $30 bottle.
Only 10 of the 22 wines listed are domestic. Italy dominates the imports with five wines in the value grouping.
The biggest surprise is a nonvintage red blend from Portugal, the Locations "P4 Portuguese Red Wine." Winemaker Dave Phinney of Orin Swift Winery fame now has his Locations project up and running, and the results have been spectacular.
Phinney is a master at the art of blending, and the Locations "P4" is a superb example. This wine was my highest-scoring wine in the $20-and-under category in 2017. It is an excellent expression of dry red wine from Portugal (remember, Portugal is most famous for its sweet Port dessert wines). It is richly layered with supple tannins and impressive depth and length.
This feat goes against all the accepted norms for a great red table wine. Phinney cast a wide net for his grape sources in Portugal and paid little homage to the concept of vintage. Moreover, the price hardly suggests it might be a phenomenal wine that would impress even the most discerning palate.
Navarro Vineyards, situated in California's Anderson Valley, accomplished no less a feat in placing two wines on the Top 20 Value List, a top-notch pinot grigio and one of the finest rose wines I tasted in 2017. Navarro is a small family-run operation that has been producing some of California's classiest aromatic white wines and pinot noirs over a couple of generations.
The most exotic wine on the list is the Donnafugata 2016 "Lighea." A dry white wine made from the rare zibibbo grape, the same grape Donnafugata uses for its iconic Ben Rye dessert wine, Lighea is sure to stump even the most expert wine aficionado in a blind tasting. It is one of Sicily's finest white wines, and the price is right.
Here's the "Wine Talk" Top 20 Value List of 2017 ...
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer's enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Andas 2016 Malbec Reserva, Mendoza, Argentina ($20) 94 points.
Argento 2014 Malbec Reserva, Valle de Uco, Argentina ($17) 91 points.
Bila-Haut 2016 Cotes-du-Roussillon Blanc, France ($15) 91 points.
Cantharos 2015 Cotes de Gascogne Blanc, France ($14) 92 points.
Cantina Bolzano 2016 Kerner, Alto Adige, Italy ($20) 93 points.
Centine Rosso 2014 Toscana IGT, Italy ($12) 92 points.
Day Owl 2016 Rose, California ($15) 91 points.
Donnafugata 2016 'Lighea,' Sicilia DOC, Italy ($20) 91 points.
Georges Duboeuf 2015 Chateau de Julienas, Beaujolais, France ($20) 91 points.
Gundlach Bundschu 2013 'Mountain Cuvee,' Sonoma County ($20) 91 points.
Irony 2014 Pinot Noir, Monterey County ($16) 93 points.
J Vineyards 2016 Pinot Gris, California ($20) 92 points.
Locations 'P4 Portuguese Red Wine,' Portugal ($20) 97 points.
Matanzas Creek 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Alexander Valley ($20) 93 points.
McPherson Cellars 2016 'La Herencia Rosa,' Texas ($18) 93 points.
Navarro Vineyards 2016 Pinot Grigio, Anderson Valley ($16) 94 points.
Navarro Vineyards 2016 Rose, Mendocino ($18) 96 points.
Noble Vines 2014 '667' Pinot Noir, Monterey ($15) 91 points.
Pieropan 2016 Soave Classico, Italy ($20) 92 points.
Primus 2014 'The Blend,' Colchagua Valley, Chile ($20) 91 points.
Francis Ford Coppola Sofia 2016 Chardonnay, Monterey County ($20) 93 points.
Valdo 'Oro Puro' Prosecco, Valdobbiadene DOC, Italy ($20) 91 points.
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.