Every so often, I come across an article about a unicorn wine—those hyped-up bottles that come at an impossible price—and expectation—for most of us. Last week, it was a New York Times food columnist describing a new Bollinger Champagne costing about $500 as “reasonably” priced. Bollinger is a highly regarded Champagne, and, if your income is substantial enough, perhaps that’s reasonable.
But, thankfully for the 99.99% of wine drinkers who jog along more humble wine trails, there are plenty of options out there that demonstrate less is more. And many have noble roots, so you get not only the fine winemaking sensibility, but a pedigree, too.
In 1988, the Rothschilds of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild founded Los Vascos, a winery in Chile’s Colchagua Valley. Although its initial wines were somewhat rough and ready, I followed each vintage, knowing that the owners of one of the greatest wines in the world would not sully their name with an inferior product. As we reach the millennium, Los Vascos new vineyards were maturing, resulting in refined and balanced wines.
Recently, I enjoyed the 2019 Los Vascos Chardonnay composed of estate- and other-grown grapes in the neighboring Casablanca Valley. Fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks, the 2019 chardonnay’s pleasing floral and white fruit aromas are matched by tasty tropical fruit flavor; a line of acidity brings balance and length. It was delightful with roasted chicken and zucchini and Swiss chard from the farmers market. 92 points. Retailing from $8 to $14 takes it past reasonable and into great value.
In the early 1970s, Jack and Catherine Nevin moved to Edna Valley, California, where the primary crop was dry-farmed garbanzo beans. With advice from the agricultural departments of Davis and Fresno state universities, the Nivens planted Paragon vineyard in 1973.
The Nivens planted 15 acres of Gruner Veltliner, a white variety identified with Austria, in its Paragon Vineyard. Grapes for the 2017 Zocker Baileyana Gruner Veltliner Paragon Vineyard Edna Valley are fermented, aged in stainless-steel tanks and see no malolactic fermentation. The winemaking produced a pure white hue with a lime-like scent, and citrus and honeydew melon flavors. A lively acidity keeps the mouth fresh for the next delightful sip. 90 points. Retail prices range from $16 to $22.