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In This Issue
 13 "affordable" wines
 About AIWF
 Calling Kentuckians, Hoosiers and opera lovers

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13 "affordable" wines

Who doesn't like the idea of a good bottle of wine that won't set you back the metaphorical arm and a leg?

I spend a good part of my shopping time looking for wines of good value - not merely cheap wine, but wine that tastes more expensive than it is - and it's always a pleasure to pass along a report when I run into a good deal.

So when the local chapter of the American Institute of Wine & Food (abbreviated AIWF, about which you'll find a bit more farther down the page) announced plans for a "value wine" tasting as part of its annual meeting this week, I didn't need much prompting to put on a clean shirt and go check it out.

With a half-dozen tables set with tasty grazing fare (provided by Louisville's Masterson's Catering) and a baker's dozen of under-$15 wines awaiting, it didn't take the group long to hurry through a business meeting and head for the food and wine. Let's do the same: The following notes are relatively quick and telegraphic - a social buffet setting doesn't encourage deep analysis - but should give you a sense of what I thought these affordable wines were like. The wines were selected by Matt Baugher of Commonwealth Wine & Spirits, who's also the AIWF Program Chairman. Prices shown are the distributor's suggested retail; I've seen several of these items on sale for a bit less.


Fetzer Five Rivers Ranch 2001 Chardonnay, California ($11-$13)
Fresh, crisp, appley. Simple but pleasant Chardonnay.

Table 1: Caesar salad cups with fresh-grated Parmesan; tomato and feta bruschetta.

Sacred Hill 2002 Hawke's Bay Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand ($12-$14)
Good fresh chile pepper and citrus aromas, crisp and fresh.

Concha y Toro 2002 "Casillero del Diablo" Carmenere, Chile ($11-13)
Muted cherry scent. Soft and smooth flavor, gains balancing acidity in the finish.

Table 2: Seafood bisque; shrimp on jicama rounds.

Jewel 2001 Viogner, California ($10-$12)
Light, fresh floral scent leads into a surprisingly full flavor that hints of oak. Aromatics make it a particularly good match with the rich, creamy seafood bisque.

Mondavi 2001 "Private Selection" Chardonnay, California ($11-$13)
Fresh apples, ripe and true, on the nose and palate; good acidic balance. Simple but appealing, fruit-driven style.

Table 3: Marinated wild-mushroom bouchees; Dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves).

Hopler "H" 2002 Gruner Veltliner, Austria ($12-$14)
Crisp, dry and full-bodied, white fruit and characteristic chalky/stony Gruner Veltlier "minerals." Good introduction to this excellent Austrian grape.

Columbia Crest 2001 Grand Estates Syrah, Washington State ($12-$14)
Ripe, juicy, soft, slightly sweet. Mouth-filling and fruity, an easy quaff for by-the-glass service.

Table 4: Goat cheese and sun-dried-tomato pesto "silver dollars"; rosemary-skewered sauteed sea scallops.

Argyle 2001 Willamette Chardonnay, Oregon ($12-$14)
Appley and fresh, a straightforward and appealing Chardonnay with good acidic structure.

Casa Contini 2001 Salice Salentino, Apulia, Italy ($8-$10)
Light ruby in color. Perfumed red fruit on the nose and palate, peppery and plummy. More lightweight and refreshing in style than most Salice Salentinos, but a very good value.

Table 5: Chinese potstickers; petite poached pears.

Talomas 2002 Chardonnay-Viognier, California ($12-$14)
Butter, apples and spicy oak, more akin to Chardonnay than Viognier. A joint venture between Mondavi and Australia's Rosemount, made in California with Rosemount's winemaker.

Giesen 2001 Riesling, New Zealand ($12-$14)
Fresh, typical Down Under Riesling aromas, limey and piney. Crisp and fresh, dry and acidic (some bottle variation noted - one more steely, one softer).

Table 6: Smoked chili; sesame beef teriyaki skewers.

La Ferme de Gicon 2002 Cotes du Rhone, France ($8-$10)
Red fruit, fragrant pepper. Pleasant but muted and very light.

Heron 2000 Vin de Pays d'Oc Merlot, France ($11-$13)
Soft, smooth, approachable. Simple, easy quaff, French country wine bottled by a California producer.

We're always in the market for good cheap-wine advice, so if you have comments on any of these wines or would like to nominate your own budget favorites, you're invited to drop by our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, where you'll find this topic ready for discussion with wine lovers around the world:
Click the REPLY button on the forum page to post a comment or response. (If your E-mail software broke this long link in half, take care to paste it back into one line before you enter it in your Web browser.)

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'm sorry that the overwhelming amount of mail I receive makes it tough to respond personally every time, but I do try to get back to as many as I can.

About AIWF

AIWF Established in 1981 by culinary greats Julia Child, Robert Mondavi and the late Richard Graff as a non-profit educational organization dedicated to understanding and celebrating the pleasures, benefits and traditions of the table, AIWF was founded on the premise that gastronomy, the art or science of good eating, is essential to quality of life. Now headquartered right here in Louisville, my home town, AIWF has more than 7,000 members in over 30 chapters in the U.S. and France.

For more information about the organization and membership, visit the AIWF website at

Calling Kentuckians, Hoosiers and opera lovers

There's a strong connection between fine wine and grand opera. Opera, like wine, traces much of its heritage to Italy and France. Both wine and opera speak to the emotions, appeal to the sensory centers of the body and mind, and inspire descriptive terms that speak of rhythm, color, tone and, at the base of it all, harmony and beauty.

It's no coincidence, then, that Kentucky Opera links its major annual public fund-raising events to the world of wine.

Coming up soon after the New Year, the Opera's annual wine auction, In Vino Veritas, will take place Saturday, Feb. 21, 2004, moving to a new venue this year as one of the first events scheduled for the brand-new Triple Crown Room at the historic Churchill Downs race track in Louisville. It's a black-tie affair featuring a grand tasting, premier silent auction, gourmet dinner and live auction.

Preceding the main event is Kentucky Opera's more casual preview party, Viva il Vino!, set for Friday, Feb. 6 at Louisville's Glassworks. This fun event, targeted to "the wine-curious," features tastings, games and a silent auction.

If you're a wine lover in Kentucky or Southern Indiana or plan to be in the Louisville area in February, you'll want to mark these dates on your calendar.

Meanwhile, no matter where in the world you live, Kentucky Opera would be delighted to have you join the effort as a donor. By contributing auction-worthy wines (or wine-related gifts ranging from wine accessories to wine art to wine-tour and travel opportunities), you can share in the pleasure of directly supporting Kentucky Opera's quality productions and educational outreach programs.

Contributors are listed as donors in the auction catalog and on the auction website, and receive acknowledgement in Ovations!, Kentucky Opera's quarterly magazine. And of course contributions are eligible for tax deduction for their fair market value.

Supporting Kentucky Opera's wine auctions offers business contributors a great opportunity for recognition by a top clientele and exposure to "well-heeled customers" in the Louisville metropolitan area and beyond, potentially attracting new customers you might not ordinarily reach.

If you are interested in contributing collectible wine or wines, the deadline for listing in the program is Nov. 19. Contact Kentucky Opera's Judith Youngblood directly at 1-800-690-9236, or if you prefer, send me E-mail at and I'll put you in touch. For more about Kentucky Opera and its fund-raising events, click to


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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Friday, Nov. 7, 2003
Copyright 2003 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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