30 Second Wine Advisor: My best value wines of 2008

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In This Issue

 My best value wines of 2008 here's my annual New Year's report on the best - and the best values - of the wines I've reviewed during the past 12 months.
 Connoisseurs' Series A subscription to Connoisseurs' Series is a statement in elegance, taste and the finest in California artisanal wine. Call 1-800-777-4443 to join or learn more. Here is my tasting reports on a recent offering, the top-tier "Hommage" Cabernet from Clos Pegase..
 This week on WineLoversPage.com WineLovers Discussion Group members discuss a punitive fine on a New York wine shop for the "crime" of selling a gift bag for wine.
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My best value wines of 2008

Happy New Year! As we move into the year 2009, here's my annual New Year's report on the best - and the best values - of the wines I've reviewed during the past 12 months.

As I do at the end of every year at this time, I've sorted all my wine-tasting reports of the year to reveal the specific wines that I've rated best for both quality and value. These are the wines that showed exceptional value at all price points, earning the admiring moniker that online wine "geeks" call "Quality-Price Ratio" or, for short, "QPR."

Many of the recent trends that we've recorded last year and the year before seemed to continue in 2008: Artisanal, small-farm wineries came under some pressure as international corporations buy up properties and write distribution agreements with producers around the world. The combination of continued warm weather in many wine regions and a perception that the public wants big, fruity, highly alcoholic wines that win high ratings points continues to make "international" wines in this style ever more available.

Curiously, only 51 of the wines I tasted during 2008 made my "honor roll" for top rank in quality and value; this is down from 56 top-QPR wines in 2007 and 60 the year befor that. While this trend isn't large, it's consistent enough to suggest that it's becoming more and more difficult to find wines of true interest at "everyday" price points.

A decade ago it was still easy to find interesting wines at $5; a few years ago the dividing line had risen to $10. Now I find that most of my wines for everyday consumption range from $12 to $20. Will prices continue to rise in the face of a possible global recsssion? The year 2009 should be an interesting time for wine consumers.

Looking more closely at my top quality wines of the year, as noted, 51 made the cut. Ten of those sold for $10 or less, the great value Cave de Montagnac 2006 Picpoul de Pinet marking the low end at $7.99. Surprisingly, I spent over $20 for only two of my top-value wines this year; all the rest fell in the $10 to $20 range.

Sorted by country or region, this year's QPR list includes 17 from perennial winner France, 13 from Italy and - jumping up in the race this year, perhaps because of the dollar's low valuation against the Euro, 13 from the United States (including 11 from California and one each from Oregon and Washington State). Filling out the list were Australia, 3; and one each from Argentina, Austria, New Zealand, Portugal and Spain.

Here are all the top-value wines that I tasted during 2007, ranked in order of the actual retail price that I paid. You may click each link to view a more detailed tasting note in our standard "shelf-hanger" format. In most instances, I purchased these wines from retail shops in and around Louisville, Ky.; a few came from California Wine Club or were hand-carried back from New York City, most from the excellent Chambers Street Wines. For your shopping convenience, I have added specific links for each wine to the databases at Wine-Searcher.com to help you compare prices and check availability at selected vendors online.

Wines retailing for more than $20

Mosby 2005 "Ossessione" Marche Rosso (Italy), $26. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Emilio Lustau Palo Cortado "Peninsula" Sherry (Spain), $21.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Wines retailing from $15 to $20

Francine et Olivier Savary 2006 Chablis (France), $19.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Matteo Correggia 2004 "La Val dei Preti" Nebbiolo d'Alba (Italy), $19.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Kunde Estate 2004 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (California), $18.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Hahn Estates 2006 Central Coast Meritage Red Table Wine (California), $17.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Domaine Oratoire St. Martin 2005 Côtes du Rhône (France), $17.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Pedroncelli 2005 Dry Creek Valley Sonoma County "Mother Clone" Zinfandel (California), $17. (Find it at California Wine Club)

A to Z 2006 Oregon Chardonnay (Oregon), $16.99. (Find distributors on the winery Website)

d'Arenberg 2007 "The Hermit Crab" Adelaide Viognier Marsanne (Australia), $16.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Château de Villeneuve 2006 Saumur (France), $15.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Domaine Alain Normand 2005 Macon La Roche Vineuse (France), $15.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Daniel Gehrs 2005 "Unoaked" Santa Barbara County Chardonnay (California), $15. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Wines retailing for less than $15

Bonterra Vineyards 2006 Mendocino County Zinfandel (California), $14.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Bonterra Vineyards 2006 Mendocino County Cabernet Sauvignon (California), $14.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Omaka Springs 2007 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand), $14.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Vicentini 2005 "Terre Lunghe" Soave (Italy), $13.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Fratelli Pala 2006 "Crabilis" Vermentino di Sardegna (Italy), $13. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Château les Eymeries 2006 Bordeaux Blanc (France), $13. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Huber 2006 "Hugo" Niederösterreich Grüner Veltliner (Austria), $13. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Mas de Gourgonnier 2005 Les Baux de Provence (France), $12.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Riondo non-vintage Veneto Prosecco (Italy), $12.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Maison Lafage 2006 "Côte Sud" Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes (France), $12.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Mionetto Valdobbiadene Prosecco Brut (Italy), $12.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

La Tour Boisée 2006 "Plantation 1905" Vin de Table Rouge (France), $12.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Hayman & Hill 2006 "Interchange" Santa Barbara County "Reserve No. 22" White Blend (California), $12.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Charles Smith Wines 2006 "Holy Cow" Columbia Valley Chardonnay (Washington State), $12.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Peachy Canyon 2006 "Incredible Red" Paso Robles Zinfandel (California), $11.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Chateau La Freynelle 2006 Bordeaux (France), $11.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Montpezat 2005 Coteaux du Languedoc Palombières (France), $11.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Foppiano Vineyards "Lot 96" California Red Wine (California), $11.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Shoofly 2007 "Buzz Cut" Wine of Australia (Australia), $11.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Baciami 2006 Albana di Romagna (Italy), $11. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Cantine Riondo "Pink" Prosecco Raboso (Italy), $11. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Domaine des Terres Falmet 2006 Cinsault Vin de Pays d'Oc (France), $11. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Marchesi di Barolo 2006 "Maràia" Barbera Monferrato (Italy), $10.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Laurel Glen 2006 "REDS" Lodi Red Wine (California), $10.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Cellier des Dauphins 2005 "Prestige" Cotes du Rhone (France), $10.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Red Heads Studio 2006 South Australia "Yard Dog" (Australia), $10.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Michele Chiarlo 2006 "Le Orme" Barbera d'Asti (Italy), $10.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Tiziano 2005 Chianti (Italy), $10.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Domaine André Brunel 2005 Vin de Pays de Vaucluse Grenache (France), $10. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Domaine La Tour Boisée 2005 Vin de Pays d'Oc Cabernet Sauvignon (France), $9.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Bodegas Norton 2006 "Lo Tengo" Mendoza Malbec (Argentina), $9.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Le Pavillon du Château Beauchêne 2006 Côtes du Rhône Rosé (France), $9.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Catherine le Goeuil 2005 Côtes du Rhône Villages Cairanne "Cuvée Léa Felsch" (France), $9.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

José Maria da Fonseca 2007 "Twin Vines" Vinho Verde (Portugal), $9. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Vinum Cellars 2006 "CNW Chard-No-Way" Wilson Vineyards Clarksburg Chenin Blanc (California), $8.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Villa Pozzi 2007 Nero d'Avola Sicilia (Italy), $8.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

"Via Firenze" 2005 Chianti (Italy), $7.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Cave de Montagnac 2006 Picpoul de Pinet (France), $7.99. (Find it on Wine-Searcher.com)

Now, here's a look at an outstanding recent offering from Connoisseurs' Series: An outstanding Napa Cabernet from Clos Pegase. Wine maker Paul Hobbs and viticulturist Tom Prentice joined Clos Pegase in 2006, focusing on its Calistoga Vineyard, declaring it "flagship of our super premium sites," expressing a bold goal "to make the best red wine possible." Hommage is among the first fruits of that venture.

Clos Pegase 2004 "Hommage" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($81 retail; $74 per bottle for half or full case orders by Connoisseurs' Series members)

Clos Pegase

Very dark in color, blackish-purple, with a dark garnet edge. An appealing mix of berries, cherries and a whiff of blackcurrant - plays the melody line over a ground bass of spicy oak. Although it sees a full 19 months in French oak, 85 percent of it new, the wine's first-rate fruit and appropriate extraction keeps the balance in favor of fruit. Flavors follow the nose, big and mouth-filling, nicely balanced by fresh-fruit acidity. Tannins are present but smooth and palatable; the wine's heady 14.7% alcohol is kept well restrained. Overall, an impressive Napa Cabernet, drinking nicely but certainly a candidate for cellaring. It went well with red meat, Kentucky natural free-range lamb from Dreamcatcher Farm. Winery Website: http://www.clospegase.com (Jan. 2, 2009)

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Both of these fine wines were included in a recent shipment from Connoisseurs' Series and are available for additional orders by Connoisseurs' Series members. Call 1-800-777-4443 to join or learn more.

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This week on WineLoversPage.com

WineLovers Discussion Group: New York wine shop fined $10,000 for selling wine gift bags
A strict state law and seemingly punitive enforcement came together to slam a heavy fine on a small wine shop in Rochester, N.Y., for the crime of selling a gift bag for wine. WineLovers Discussion Group members express their opinions, and you can, too:

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