The annual Kalamazoo Food & Wine Fest, a benefit for WGVU public television and radio, offers an excellent opportunity to try hundreds of wines. Those who attend can purchase any of these wines at a very steep discount, and apparently even those who missed the fest can still receive these discounts by ordering wines online from the sponsor, D&W Fresh Market (http://www.freshmarket.com/). I was very selective in my tasting this year but found some excellent values, listed according to my preference. Regular price/sale price in parentheses.
1. Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso, 2008 ($22.99/$13.49): This is an absolutely stunning wine that, in my opinion, is worthy of comparison to high-end red Burgundies and Italian Barolos. Aromas of red berries, flowers and herbs conjure up adjectives like delicacy and finesse; yet in the mouth, this is no shrinking violet. Tannins are strong but unobtrusive, and those flavors promised by the aromas are all there dancing on the tongue. I truly believe that this (and other Mount Etna wines) will soon be priced out of reach as wine drinkers come to realize what they have been missing. At this price, I will add to my cellar supply.
2. Chateau Greysac Medoc 2006 ($23.99/$15.99): Greysac has long been a favorite of American wine drinkers. With a high proportion of Cabernet in the blend, it has some of the qualities that attract Napa Cab drinkers; at the same, it has the finesse and class of a good red Bordeaux. I bought some of the 2005 Greysac for this price a few months ago and felt very smug for having done so. I just had to try the 2006, offered at the same price, and was not disappointed. It was my second favorite wine of the evening.
3. Mount Veeder Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 ($42.99/$20.99): I buy very little Napa Cabernet these days primarily because of my shifting food and wine tastes. But I was sorely tempted when I saw this wine on the shelf for $28.99 a few months ago. And at $20.99, wow! A taste confirmed what I remembered about Mount Veeder Cab: classy, elegant but powerfully focused fruit aromas and flavors. An incredible bargain.
4. Whitehaven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 ($24.99/$14.99): This is definitely a step up from other New Zealand Sauvignons that I usually buy (Monkey Bay, Oyster Bay, Starborough) and, at this discount, worth a few more dollars. I've seen the wine priced at $29.99 in southwest Michigan.
5. Beni di Batasiolo Barbera d'Alba 2007 ($17.49/$8.99): At this price level, I usually buy the San Silvestri Barbera Piemonte Ottone I. (And I liked the 2008 Ottone I that I tasted at the Wine & Food Fest.) But this Barbera d'Alba is a step up in appellation and quality, discounted to about the same price. It's a full flavored, rich textured wine, and Barbera always pairs nicely with a variety of foods--from fish to steak.
6. Guigal Chateauneuf du Pape 2003 ($52.49/$37.99): I'm not a fan of the 2003 Southern Rhone vintage, but this is a very fine Chateauneuf du Pape drinking well right now. It has a lifted 2003 nose (mint and basil?) with compact cherry/berry flavors. More mature than I would expect from a 7-year-old Chateauneuf du Pape but it's not falling apart.
7. Carchello Jumilla Monastrell/Temperanillo ($20.49/$13.99): Jumilla Monastrell is on my radar at the moment. Every one I've had (Luzon Verde, Castillo) has been fantastic, and apparently the price has not caught up to the quality for this appellation's Monastrell wines. Carchello is another fine example--blending beauty and power--but I'm still looking for the Luzon Verde.
8. Burgess Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 ($35.99/$25.99): This wine has the same ripe blackberry/blackcurrant smells and flavors I remember from vintages of 1977, 1978, 1979 when the wine was priced right for my pocketbook ($8 to $10). It has the size, body and extraction I admired in those days, and I enjoy tasting it tonight (although my tastes have changed and, even when I drink California Cabernet, I still prefer the Mount Veeder).