Jug wine, including those that come in a box, is officially on the endangered list, thanks, in no small part, to young adults, surrounding thirty, affectionately known as “Millennials,” the offspring of maturing Baby Boomers.
A recent study by Rob McMillan, from Silicon Valley Bank wine division, predicts the unthinkable, the first decline in wine consumption per capita in 20 years, attributed, in part, to a steady decline in sales of high-volume, budget table wine. Correspondingly, the industry has enjoyed an increase of sales in the $10-25 market and they recognize the trend toward high-end, boutique wines as they prepare to ride the wave of the Millennials, 80 million strong, for the next 30 years.
On a weekly basis I am reading of acquisitions of smaller, high-end wineries by larger corporations. Beringer Wine Estate recently purchased the esteemed Gary Farrell Winery, a fine pinot noir producer in the Russian River Valley, E&J Gallo, our nation’s largest producer, now owns multiple boutique wineries in the Healdsburg
area, a trend expanding throughout California.
Likewise, Heineken International is now a 50% partner with the Petaluma-based Laguinitas Brewing Co., among the fastest growing boutique breweries, valued a $1 billion.
The larger corporations are not interested in inquiring new vineyards, they are investing in the high-end future, one that will be dictated by the “Millennials” discerning palates and thirst for nice things. Technology is also connecting this new generation to European wines, with apps providing unprecedented access to research on new vintages.
So, for those “Millennials” or anyone from twenty-one to ninety, let me offer some recommendations for quality wines of character, $20 or less, that could be fine additions to any cellar. Although I list some wines by their current vintage, they are consistently good, year to year. Prices do vary and the one listed is the lowest that I could find.
2014 Bonny Doon “Clos de Gilroy” Grenache ($20)
As a long-standing member of Bonny Doon’s Distinguished Esoteric Wine Network, I am familiar with and often recommend this wine as a great value. It has been described by winemaker/founder Randall Grahm as “The wine
formerly know as Clos De Gilroy” because it now sources grapes from Monterey County and the Sacramento Delta, adding some syrah and mourvedre for extra flavor and structure. It expresses “jammy” fruit flavors of raspberry and cherry combined with white pepper and herbs. Prepare yourself for a screw top bottle, a change that Grahm made for all his wines years ago, claiming more reliability in maintaining freshness.
Those preferring white wines will also enjoy the 2014 Bonny Doon “The Heart Has Its Rieslings” ($13), both sweet and tart with a nicely balanced acidity and a
very fun label.
2014 Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel ($20)
There are some good choices among value-priced zinfandel, none better than Seghesio’s Sonoma County Zinfandel. Most of their releases fall into the $35-50 price range, but this wine, from vineyards in Sonoma’a warmest regions, is no stranger to critical acclaim. Be prepared for a food-friendly “fruit bomb” with rich, blueberry flavors, 14.8% alcohol and a nice hint of black pepper.
I recently enjoyed a glass of the 2013 vintage with grilled salmon and found the soft, perfumed bouquet with
young, but luscious flavors a suitable pair. Fairly accessible, I have seen other vintages of this wine at local outlets, wine wholesalers and online.
Yalumba Y Series Shiraz-Viognier ($13)
Yalumba Y Series Viognier ($13)
Yalumba, south Australia’s oldest family winery, produces a plethora of red and white wines that are all good values, none better than the Y Series Shiraz-Viognier with very interesting aromas, ripe, velvety cherries and the signature Aussie touch of adding a bit of viognier for taste. The Y Series Viognier has significant citrus on the nose and palate with a soft, rich texture from
aging “sur lie.”
Once familiar with the Yalumba label, I have seen it in local wine outlets and high end markets.
2013 Columbia Crest “H3” Horse Heaven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon ($12-15)
Washington State’s Columbia Crest has been producing high quality, mid-priced wines for decades and their “H3” Series highlights the vineyards within the Horse Heaven Hills appellation in eastern Washington. I have not tried this wine as yet, but it has been rated as a “Best Buy” with ratings in the 90s by Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast magazines. With full malolactic fermentation, the reviews speak of rich, layered flavors with a bit of cocoa on the finish
Columbia Crest wines are readily accessible at many local wine outlets, markets and membership stores. However, their “H3” Series wines, especially one with these reviews, may require some research online.
2013 Hahn Estates Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir ($20-25)
The Santa Lucia Highlands appellation in Monterey County has become the source of much of the state’e finest pinot noir in this decade. Producers of fine pinot noir from Sonoma to Santa Barbara County are securing grapes from the “Highlands” for their consistent quality and reputation. Hahn Winery has had a presence in the California wine industry for several years and their 2013 Hahn Estates Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir has received high accolades from all the major
reviewers, describing its floral nose, highly dense, layered flavors and a strong finish, all qualities of a nice pinot noir.
The “perfect storm” of this quality/price ratio has rendered this wine a bit rare, but I did find stock at K&L wines.
2014 Ponzi “Tavola” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
Ponzi Winery is a staple among Oregon’s Willamette Valley, focusing primarily on
pinot noir and chardonnay. Their premium pinot noir, vintage to vintage, earns high praises and commands a lofty price tag. However, the 2014 Ponzi “Tavola” Willamette Valley Pinot Noir ($20), their introduction to the “heartbreak” varietal, has the attention of many wine critics, named by many periodicals as one of the best values-priced pinots with grapes sourced from 11 different sustainable vineyards. For a young wine, it is very aromatic and expresses pleasantly rich flavors.
I have seen this wine online at multiple prices. The best price was at K&L Wines, that also has outlets in Hollywood and San Francisco.
Barrel 27 “Right Hand Man” Syrah ($20-25)
Barrel 27 “High On The Hog” White Rhone Blend ($14-18)
For good wines within the $20 or less level, I always recommend a range of varietals from Barrel 27 Winery in Paso Robles. A highly rated vintage of their “High On The Hog” classic Rhone blend of grenache, viognier,
roussanne and marsanne first led me to Barrel 27. Vintage to vintage, this wine has always delivered rich, creamy texture and flavors with a nice minerality on the finish.
All of Barrel 27 red wines are good values, but the “Right Hand Man” Syrah, sourced from vineyards in Paso Robles, the Arroyo Grande Valley and Santa Ynez Valley, is typically balanced with significant aromas and accessible soft, rich flavors. These wines are both available in wine outlets and online, but the best place to acquire them is their Paso Robles tasting room.
A very deserving quick mention Lincourt Winery in Santa Ynez Valley and Buehler Winery in Sonoma/Napa Counties as resources for consistently good value releases and the readily available Greg Norman Cabernet-Merlot ($15) is always a good option.
So all current, parents or grandparents of Millennials, start building your cellar of “good value” wines that maintain the high standards we all deserve. Be aware, this may lead to bigger and better things.